CPS has tried to force school clerks back into buildings without guarantees of PPE or clean facilities, while mayor’s school bosses have imposed dangerous, irresponsible mandates on CTU rank-and-file.

CHICAGO, May 8, 2020CTU President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement today in response to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s claims that the Union is being consulted on terms to return to schools, as well as a host of serious issues that plague CPS guidance on remote learning:

“The mayor claims that CPS is consulting our Union on reopening schools. The opposite is true. CPS and the mayor have unilaterally issued unworkable work rules on special education and tried to force school clerks back into school buildings without guaranteeing access to PPE, hand sanitizer or clean facilities. CPS has also failed to provide reasonable guidance to support English language learners or bargain with us on a host of critical questions and needs for our schools and students. The mayor is, in fact, using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to be even less transparent than her predecessor.

“The mayor won election on her promise of equity, winning every Black ward in the city on that promise. She owes those communities priority in recovery. She eagerly brings forward representatives of business elites at the same time that she’s not prioritizing the needs of the people hit hardest by this pandemic: our Black, Latinx and immigrant communities.

“The mayor runs our schools. She talks equity, but has failed to put her words into reality for our students and their families. She’s insisted on continuing to impose Rahm’s racist student-based budgeting scheme on our schools during a pandemic. She’s gutted support for special education in school budgets across the city. She’s played ‘hide the ball’ with CPS budgeting and used the pandemic as an excuse to be even less transparent than her predecessor.

“Our students and educators deserve better. We should be equal partners at the table in crafting plans to safely and responsibly return to our school communities. Our educators are desperate to get back to direct education and support for our students. We know intimately what is necessary to make this possible, yet we’ve been continuously locked out of this process, and left to try to deal with CPS’ ill-conceived and under-resourced remote learning scheme. We get that this is challenging, but it’s time for the mayor to set aside her irrational hostility to our union’s equity-driven mission to advance racial and social justice, and work collaboratively with us. We must ensure that we’re not sacrificing the health and lives of our students, families and educators at the altar of the mayor’s eagerness to accommodate the desires of corporate business lobbyists and her campaign donors.”

A rough transcript of the mayor’s disputed claims follows:

In response to a question about the CTU stating today it has not been consulted, and concerns about the mayor’s public statements on school re-opening:

Lightfoot (visibly stiffening at question): The Chicago Teachers Union is constantly consulted by CPS. What I articulated today was a goal to get our kids physically back in school. Of course, it’s gonna be guided by the science, it’s gonna be based upon the feedback from the entire school community, which of course includes the teachers. I articulated a goal, and the reason I articulated the goal is this: When I think about the youngest children, those pre-K and kindergarteners, first, second grade, if we don’t cement a love of learning in those children at the earliest age, if we are not making sure they understand social/emotional development, if they are not getting those kinds of supports. We know in Chicago that school is much more than a place of learning, they’re a place of comfort, and safety, where children are fed and they are nurtured. We need that school structure. It is important to the health and well-being of our children. And yes, we have been doing remote learning, but better yet, to be right in close proximity, to your teachers. Now we’re not gonna do that if we dont, uh, if the data tells us something else, we’re not gonna do it if we can’t keep the entirety of the school community safe, but of course I have an aspiration that our young people are gonna be back in school with their teachers so that they can learn and thrive and be nurtured.

In response to a question about the possibility of staggered classes:

Dr. Jackson and Dr. McDade and their teams in consultation with teachers and principals and the various unions that represent the janitors and the school lunchroom people, they are all starting that conversation about a way in which we can do this safely. Again, the gating issue is what does the public health data tell us, but if the public health data tells us that we can come together in some altered fashion to be in schools, then that’s something that we should all aspire to.

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.