Digital divide thwarts remote learning for thousands of students while needs for health care, trauma supports go unaddressed.

CHICAGO, April 2, 2020CPS is expected to receive $205 million from the federal government to address costs and needs associated with the coronavirus pandemic. Those funds must support real equity for Chicago’s public schoolchildren.

“Every penny of that support must go to addressing the obvious and vast inequities that plague remote learning for our students and school workers,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “Those funds must address our students’ huge digital divide, the need for free broadband for families and their students, and schoolchildren’s need for working devices that function as educational tools to connect with their educators.”

School cleanliness, which has been a chronic issue since CPS privatized its janitorial services, is also a critical issue. “School cleanliness is a critical core of the safety needs of students and staff when schools open,” says Sharkey. “We need hundreds of additional custodians to ensure schools are regularly disinfected and safe when students return. And those workers deserve safe working conditions and adequate cleaning supplies now, not next month or next year.”

Public schools across the nation have yet to recover from deep budget cuts during the 2008 economic collapse, and desperately needed shortages that are essential to student well-being must be remedied.

“Our students need remote services beyond just instruction,” said Sharkey. “Needs include the hiring up of clinician staff to be able to deal one-on-one with
student needs, family counseling and health needs. Funds must go to set up school service infrastructure for full scale community schools—including trauma supports, housing and health services, small class sizes—services that must be deployed now and be fully up and running for students’ return to school.”

At the Board of Education’s last meeting, Sharkey called on CPS to spend $75 million allocated to contend with the COVID-19 fallout in school communities to accelerate equity for students—equity needs that the Union and SEIU Local 73 prioritized in their eleven day strike last fall. The union also called for immediate housing for all students in temporary living situations—homeless students—and support for the ‘Right to Recovery’ coronavirus package being advanced by local and state legislators.

“CPS funding must prioritize homeless students, English language learners and special education students who’ve been left in the lurch by past CPS practices. Students and families across the city are struggling with economic hardship and trauma in the wake of school closures and the larger pandemic, and CPS must use these resources to put a nurse and social worker in every single school community immediately.”

The union is calling on CPS to:

  • Staff up for nurses in every school community now, rather than staffing up incrementally under the terms of the five-year contract;
  • Expand the number of clinicians, including school psychologists et alin school communities who provide social/emotional support;
  • Expand resources and support for special education students;
  • Work with the CTU to afford rank and file members the opportunity to volunteer to support needs within school communities and within the larger city.
  • Ensure that every student has access to broadband and devices that allow them to participate in and benefit from remote learning.
The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.