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Influx of immigrant families in recent months has intensified inequity for Chicago’s public school students, communities – with shortages ranging from bilingual ed teachers to native language resources and culturally relevant curriculum.

  • 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1: Educators, grassroots groups electeds call for sanctuary and bilingual education supports for students, City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St. A delegation will deliver a letter to mayor at conclusion of action. B-roll opportunities: Dia de los Muertos altar, bus with butterfly visuals.

CHICAGO — The influx of immigrant families in the wake of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s callous transfer policy has intensified the equity gap that students in CPS already confront. Today, students and families contend with woefully underfunded and insufficient bilingual education programs that lack native language resources, while children go without culturally relevant curriculum and are being denied access to ESL/Bilingual endorsed staff in violation of federal law.

To address those shortcomings and more, educators and activists are gathering at 5PM on Tuesday, November 1Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead – for a rally and commemoration at City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St., to demand that the mayor and her handpicked Board of Education fulfill their sanctuary and bilingual education promises. After the commemoration, a delegation will deliver a letter to the mayor signed by community residents, educators, families and elected officials.

Chicago’s public schools desperately need more resources to support newly arrived students – including the language and social supports they need to thrive. While Chicago is technically a welcoming sanctuary city – and Mayor Lightfoot agreed to CTU demands to make schools sanctuary spaces as part of the 2019 CTU contract – CPS has yet to complete and approve the joint letter required to implement these sanctuary provisions.

Immigrant students’ needs don’t exist in a vacuum. Activists are urging Lightfoot to take meaningful steps to address homelessness, mental and physical health needs, support for bilingual families navigating special education and – most glaringly for the mayor’s hand-picked board of ed – at last formally completing promised policy spelling out sanctuary for our students.

The current immigration crisis has exacerbated Chicago’s existing homelessness crisis, and housing support should be extended to new immigrant families as well as the existing 65,000 Chicagoans who are homeless and need housing now. Many newcomers and their families have experienced the kind of trauma and violence that is regrettably all too familiar to a typical young person in Chicago. Our youth and families desperately need access to wrap-around services and supports – including mental health and social emotional supports both inside the school building and in our communities via mental health clinics.

That takes fully staffed schools with teachers with appropriate bilingual education endorsements, and bilingual teacher aides for schools that are experiencing increasing enrollment of immigrant students. CPS should prioritize a Bilingual Education pipeline that incentivizes individuals coming into a primarily female educator workforce with benefits recently implemented at the City: enhanced maternity leave benefits, pay, and support for a successful long term career. These benefits foster retention which is sorely needed in schools, given high turnover rates and shortages of educators.

The State of Illinois has increased funding for EL supports in recent years – and CPS should make it a priority to get those supports to students. Most immediately, CPS should immediately apply and seek funding through The Refugee School Impact (RSI) as a Refugee Support Services (RSS) program, funding that supports a range of needs from special programs and after school programming to interpretation services. While this program can serve as a safety net and provide infrastructure to the growing number of immigrant students, CPS has not applied for this grant in three years.

The district must also continue to allow educators to interpret IEP meetings for the remainder of the school year in order to provide appropriate services. Instead. CPS policy changes have cut the number of IEP interpreters to fewer than 50 for a district of more than 300,000 schoolchildren – denying students and families access to services across the city.

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Check out “The Schools Chicago Students Deserve 3.0”, bringing our groundbreaking 2012 CTU report into the 21st century, with a focus on COVID-19 pandemic recovery and real equity for hundreds of thousands of neglected Black and Latinx families and school communities.

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.