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On Monday, August 3, more than 20 community groups, parent organizations, and key education unions will rally in downtown Chicago to demand that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot put public health, racial justice and appropriate funding first and delay the opening of Chicago Public Schools to ensure community safety and well-being.

This action is part of a National Day of Resistance, and there will be similar mobilizations taking place in cities across the country, including Los Angeles, Baltimore, New York, Boston, Dallas, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Orlando, Baton Rouge, Las Vegas, Denver, Pittsburgh, and many more.

President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos assert that it is safe and necessary to reopen schools—without additional funding, without stringent health guidelines, and without resources to address racial disparities. Instead, they insist upon treating our children as guinea pigs at the very moment when the virus is the most out of control and in danger of taking many more lives.

However, it is not just the Republican establishment.

  • Mayor Lightfoot has set in motion a plan that will require the reopening of in-person school for the fall, amid a surge of the virus in Illinois and Chicago.
  • Chicago Public Schools has called for a hybrid model that does not include the necessary resources to ensure that students will maintain social distancing, provide proper air filtration, or the support staff needed to operate schools during a global pandemic. We demand a healthy and equitable reopening with full remote learning until safety concerns can be addressed.

Key demands

  • An immediate announcement by Mayor Lightfoot that Chicago schools will be remote in the fall and a 100% effort to ensure a strong remote learning program with extensive supports built in for students and families. This includes free computer devices and high-speed internet access for all CPS students, best remote learning practices, remote learning supports for families, and reallocation of the funding for police in schools in order to support students’ social-emotional health.
  • Public health efforts to protect vulnerable families and recovery efforts to ensure families can survive in the face of the pandemic’s harsh impacts on housing access, income, jobs, and child care. Such efforts should include bans on evictions, foreclosures, and utility and water shut-offs as well as cash payments to families who cannot work and childcare for those who must. The harms of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic recession have had a disproportionate impact on Black, Latinx, and immigrant communities.
  • That Mayor Lightfoot immediately demand that the US Federal Reserve provide low- or no-interest liquidity to cities and states in this moment of crisis. Additionally, Lightfoot must require big banks and wealthy investors such as Chase Bank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Ken Griffin return the millions they have taken from state and city coffers by means of tax breaks and high-interest loans to public entities.

According to the Council of Chief State School Officers, schools will require more than $245 billion just to purchase air filters and PPE and hire additional staff to safely reopen. For context, the CARES Act allocated a little over $13 billion for schools.

At a moment when corporations like Amazon, Citadel, Chase Bank and Walmart are making record profits, it is unconscionable that local, state and national reopening plans do not include sufficient financial support for our schools. If the federal government can provide support to cruise lines and hedge funds, it can locate the additional funds needed to support our most precious resource: our schoolchildren.

The burdens of the pandemic and financial recession are unequally borne by people of color. “Our communities don’t have the money we need to reopen schools safely, but American taxpayers are being forced to pay $160 billion a year in interest on debt deals so that Wall Street investors can make a profit,” said Saqib Bhatti, Co-Executive Director of the Action Center on Race and the Economy. “It’s time to cancel our payments to Wall Street so that we can keep our students and teachers safe.”

Similarly, our Black and Latinx students are leading a movement to redirect the $33 million spent on Chicago police in CPS buildings toward counselors, social workers, school psychologists, nurses and restorative justice personnel to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and reverse the damage of 50 years of racist policing in our schools.

Local Co-Sponsors: Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, Pilsen Alliance, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Teachers for Social Justice, Parents 4 Teachers, Cook County College Teachers Union-Local 1600, Grassroots Collaborative, Service Employees International Union – Healthcare Illinois-Indiana (SEIU-HCII), Enlace Chicago, Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, Lift the Ban, Action Now Institute, Northside Action for Justice (NA4J), Chicago Allianced Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR), Chicago Teachers Union, Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), Journey for Justice, Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA), Chicago Coalition for the Homeless