Blistering DOE report and oversight is no guarantee that lack of accountability will end.

CHICAGO, September 12, 2019—CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates issued the following statement in response to the federal Department of Education’s report on CPS’ failure to protect students from abuse:

Today’s blistering report from the U.S. Department of Education underscores one basic fact: CPS is in dire need of basic checks and balances. Yet lack of accountability is baked into CPS governance, with no independent school board answerable to students, their families and Chicago residents, no transparent oversight, and no democratic mechanisms to hold officials responsible.

Any other school district under federal and state oversight—as CPS is for its appalling special education failures and neglect of abused students—would be in massive overhaul mode. Yet at CPS, the only governance that has changed is the mayor who calls the shots—the same mayor who collaborated with Illinois Senate President John Cullerton to torpedo a bill to create real accountability with an elected representative school board. Top CPS officials—from the CEO to the mayor’s lead negotiator at the bargaining table—remain the same. That’s more than disappointing. It shows a fundamental indifference to our students and their needs.

Mayoral control of CPS was sold to Chicagoans as a way to make one person “accountable” to CPS families and the public. Instead, mayoral control has produced the opposite: a completely unaccountable school district.

State and federal oversight is also no guarantee that CPS will not continue to muzzle families who seek to raise concerns. Just last month, the mayor’s handpicked Board of Education passed a budget that advocates decry for failing to remedy ongoing special education violations or improve access to academic programs.

The CTU is bargaining to improve student safety in our contract, yet the same CPS players at the table have rebuffed those efforts.

We have called for adequate and enforceable staffing of the experts and professionals—including certified school nurses and social workers—who are equipped to work with educators to flag signs of abuse and support children who are victims of abuse. We have called for smaller class sizes with enforceable limits that allow educators the time and capacity to identify possible concerns and give every student the individual attention and support they need. We have called for an expansion of the proven Sustainable Community School model—a set of protocols built to provide students with the wrap-around supports and assistance they need. And we have called for these commitments to be embedded, in writing, in an enforceable contract, which is the only mechanism we have to guarantee accountability from CPS.

CPS has rejected every one of these proposals at the bargaining table. This is the opposite of the safety, equity and educational justice our students and families were promised, and underscores why mayoral control of our schools must end.

Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our students. Thousands of us are both educators and parents of CPS students—and for every educator, our responsibility first and foremost is to protect the children in our care. It’s time for CPS to stop thwarting students, their families, and educators’ demands for educational justice, abandon its endless political damage control and start putting our needs first.

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.