Quality of life agenda, national campaign will push for educational justice as Black and Brown students and families continue to bear disproportionate burden of COVID harms.

CHICAGO, May 17, 2021 — A coalition of grassroots groups and unions fighting for education justice have written to President Biden urging him to direct school districts to spend federal support on critical areas of student need — including for students with disabilities. That support must include full funding of IDEA and 504 plans — the primary mechanisms set up to ensure that students with disabilities receive all of the educational supports to which they are entitled under federal law.

Coalition members are also calling on the Biden administration to ensure that critical federal relief funds be used to reverse pernicious racial and economic disparities exacerbated by the pandemic. Instead of using those funds to bankroll police in schools or pay usurious debt owed to Wall Street profiteers, school districts must prioritize support for low-income children, children with disabilities, English learners, racial and ethnic minorities, students experiencing homelessness, and families that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

“We have been calling on Mayor Lightfoot for months to allow stakeholders — parents, students and educators — to determine how roughly $1.8 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds should be spent at the local school and district level,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “Normal was not good enough for thousands of Chicago families before the pandemic, and ARPA funds must be spent collaboratively as a down payment on real racial justice.”

The coalition is launching a quality of life campaign today in conjunction with a virtual rally to press those equity demands.

Besides fully funding IDEA and 504 plans, the coalition is calling for the mayor and CPS to:

  • Support Black families and communities with additional school investments to address historic inequities.
  • Create new or make more collaborative and transparent processes for students, families and communities to partner with educators and administrators to plan for the next school year.​
  • ​​Back Ethnic Studies and curriculum that affirms the lives and histories of our BIPOC students.
  • Fund counselors, restorative practices and climate coaches instead of school police personnel and systems.
  • Staff schools with adequate special education teachers and assistants, bilingual educators, nurses, counselors, social workers, restorative justice coordinators.
  • Staff up to further reduce class sizes so students can receive more individual attention and support.
  • Invest in expansion of sustainable community school models in more schools.
  • Invest in educator, student, family and community led professional development and curriculum creation so our pedagogy meets student and family needs in the current context.
  • Invest in technology and wifi upgrades to schools and city infrastructure.
  • Invest in school infrastructure including ventilation systems.
  • Invest in ameliorating the damage done by local projects in communities which pollute and harm students making school success more difficult.
  • Provide direct housing assistance to dramatically reduce student houselessness and stabilize families of our students.
  • Provide vaccination infrastructure and organizing programs which support educators and school staff to be able to help families connect to vaccinations before the next school year.
  • Use NO federal money for expanding vouchers, charters, or privatization schemes.

The CTU was the first labor union in the nation to win vaccine opportunities for students and families, with educators in cities that include Philadelphia and Baltimore subsequently demanding — and winning — that critical tool for their students and families, as well.

Besides the CTU, coalition members include the Journey 4 Justice National Alliance, the Center for Popular Democracy, the Alliance for Educational Justice, United Teachers Los Angeles, Racine Educators United, Oakland Education Association, Seattle Education Association, Boston Teachers Union, Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, National Educators United, Arizona Educators United, Prince George’s County Education Association, San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, Caucus of Rank and File Educators (Chicago), Durham Association of Educators, and the St. Paul Federation of Educators.

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.