CHICAGO, October 27, 2021 — Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement today in wake of news that CPS enrollment dropped this year by 10,000 students:
Today Mayor Lightfoot’s CPS team admitted what we’ve raised the alarm about for the last year: another loss of 10,000 students in our school communities — including thousands of preschoolers, most of whom live in neighborhoods that have been devastated by COVID and by decades of disinvestment and civic neglect.
Thousand of Chicago residents continue to be denied the economic and social benefits of the city, while the mayor has closed schools in Black and Brown communities, refused to reopen mental health clinics, deprioritized working class neighborhoods, and failed to implement a plan for adequate affordable housing as rents and home prices skyrocket. Black and Brown residents, in particular, continue to be asked to send their children to underfunded, underinvested and underresourced public schools, in communities that lack quality basic neighborhood services. Ongoing systemic discrimination, corruption and lack of investment are preventable harms that expel Black people from our city, and drive Black families from neighborhood public schools.
What our schools and communities need to stem this tide is transformative investments to reverse decades of inequity and neglect and support the right to recovery for all. The mayor has the funds — more than $4.5 billion in federal City and CPS COVID relief funds. Piecemeal investments that act as bandaids won’t be enough. Our schools ought to be state-of-the-art, desirable places to work, and anchors within every community. The sustainable community school model should be a vision for the district — especially at a time when Chicago and the nation is struggling to make it out of this global pandemic and the harms it has laid bare.
Our schools need these supports. We’re still desperately short of school nurses, social workers, substitute teachers, janitors — thousands of adults who are integral to keeping our schools running safely and effectively. Our students deserve to attend neighborhood public schools equipped to meet their social, emotional, health and educational needs.
A year and a half of pandemic disease and death has exacerbated needs in neighborhoods that have been neglected for decades. This ought to be a moment of reflection and an opportunity for transformative investment and vision. Families must see the mayor and district committing and implementing investments that do more than pay lip service to the ongoing inequities.