This isn’t normal. We are in a global health crisis, and we need support, resources and partners to build out a remote learning dynamic that works.
CHICAGO, August 18, 2020—Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement following Chicago Public Schools’ release of its Remote Learning Guidance Document for the start of the 2020-2021 school year:
“Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools were trying their best to have in-person, classroom instruction to start the year, and it is clear that their energy went into designing and selling the hybrid school plan. To them, it was hybrid or nothing.
“So when Black and Latinx families said in great numbers that they were not going to risk their children’s lives in a global pandemic, there was nothing for the mayor and the district to fall back on but what they knew learning already looks like. And that’s what we’re left with today.
“The mayor and CPS made this plan without imagination or input from teachers. They have unveiled a remote learning plan to fit into the mold of in-person school, but have failed to take advantage of the ways that online learning can be made more accessible and engaging. In fact, they refuse to partner on an agreement that reflects lessons learned from last spring and best practices for remote learning.
“We feel like that there should be innovation specific to remote learning that works for a wider swath of educators and families. We’ve accepted that this is a pandemic, and we’ve adapted accordingly to serve our school communities. We’re not sure CPS has done the same. There is a lot of infrastructure to build, and they’ve been reluctant to build that infrastructure with our union.
“Today, we filed the first in a series of grievances against CPS for issuing remote learning guidance that fails to provide our school communities with the instructional tools necessary to deliver proper instruction in a remote context required by the labor contract. The Union is demanding that CPS provide educators and students with the infrastructure necessary to conduct remote learning, and the increase of professional development time to allow for training and collaboration with parents, caregivers and students on remote learning best practices.
“The district believes it has taken care of all its issues since the spring, but the social inequities that existed then haven’t disappeared over the summer. CPS and the mayor failed to address those inequities, so we’re still grappling with that. But parents and educators need answers. How do we do diagnostics with Pre-K? How do we conduct home visits for our special education families? How do nurses and social workers engage? Can our social workers and clinicians provide support similar to how physicians do via Telehealth?
“We also don’t know how this is going to work based on the limitations of the Google Meet platform CPS has, or how many students at this point don’t have access to devices and broadband Internet. We need to hold the district to its promise that every student receives the tools and has the access they need before the start of classes.
“CPS has received $205 million from the CARES Act. There shouldn’t be a student or a family in need of anything right now.
“Where is the flexibility for working parents—including thousands of our own members? Everything we proposed to CPS was rejected, so it’s almost like we’re being punished for our work in helping secure remote learning to start the year, and keep educators, students and their families safe. But CPS needs to collaborate with both families and educators to unpack how we make this work together. What the district issued today isn’t reflective of a partnership, or a positive remote learning experience for parents across the city.
“If we want successful remote learning, the practitioners must have a voice in the curriculum and the design, and CPS and the mayor must put forth the resources to make it happen.
“At the end of the day, the mayor and CPS did everyone a disservice by taking so long to capitulate to the obvious in moving to remote learning. We are confident that educators will figure it out with the help of students and families, but we are disappointed that once again, our members will have to be the innovators in pushing past incompetence and working toward something that will work for Chicago’s families and school communities.”