The figure is even less than the small number initially expected as Chicago’s public school students and families continue to demand improvements to remote learning, and deserve every penny of $1.8 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds to recover and reimagine public education.

CHICAGO, March 19, 2021The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement today to rank and file members, and then to the press and public, regarding the district’s long-delayed release of attendance figures for third quarter in-person instruction:

A coalition of stakeholders — parents, students, educators, community organizations and elected officials — told Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her handpicked Chicago Board of Education for months that parents were choosing to stick with remote learning for their children, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Black and Brown communities that make up the majority of our school district.

Today, after a nearly month-long delay, Chicago Public Schools released attendance figures showing that less than 25 percent of students eligible to return have attended school for at least one day, and the district’s push for in-person learning has drawn even less students than the small number initially expected.

The pandemic has brought us to this moment, and the numbers speak for themselves. Our families need assurances of safety, and it is clear that the overwhelming majority of the families we serve simply do not trust claims of equity from the mayor and CPS.

Educators and parents spent months asking for improvements to remote learning, because that is what would provide the best educational outcomes.

Educators and parents were ignored.

But we knew. Teachers, PSRPs, librarians, clinicians and counselors knew because we listen to parents, and we listen to students. Principals knew, as did every stakeholder with ties to the school communities they live and work in.

Just short of 50,000 students have attended class in person between Feb. 11 and March 12, according to the district, which is far fewer than the approximately 60,000 the district was expecting, and 36 percent less than the 77,000 students the mayor and CPS messaged around for months.

The mayor didn’t listen. CPS leadership didn’t listen. Yet the numbers speak for themselves.

Now, however, is the time for everyone to listen to all families and start to reimagine public education for every child in our district.

It is incumbent on the mayor and her CPS leadership team to last listen to parents and students, in addition to teachers, PSRPs, counselors, clinicians and librarians, and commit to collaboration for safe in-person instruction, improved remote learning and the right to recovery from this global health crisis.

Listen to the people with skin in the game. We have been doing this work for decades.

CPS is set to collect another $1.8 billion in federal resources, which we must use to honor the sacrifices and hardships of our students and families. These funds must address students’ long-ignored equity needs, and Black and Brown families absolutely must be prioritized — not just in press conferences and talking points, but in true engagement, agency and empowerment.

Our “new normal” of public education must have all the things the “old normal” didn’t: mental and physical health care supports, lower class sizes, broad and rich curricula, a library for every school, and fully resourced programming to transform every school into a sustainable community school.

We need full staffing of social workers and counselors. We need the fully elected representative school board the mayor promised during her campaign.

Anything less will simply deepen the historic inequity that the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and intensified, which would represent an unforgivable failure of political will for our students, our families and the neighborhoods in which they live.

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.