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Chicago Public Schools and the City of Chicago have an unprecedented $4 billion for recovery from COVID-19, yet Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s 2021-2022 school district budget doesn’t increase staffing, make key improvements to buildings or demonstrate a commitment to making schools better than before the pandemic.

  • Wednesday, July 28, 8:45 a.m. (picket), 9 a.m. (press conference): Chicago Teachers Union picket and press conference at the Chicago Board of Education, 42 W. Madison St.

CHICAGO, July 27, 2021 —  Chicago Teachers Union leaders, City Council members, rank-and-file educators and community partners are holding an informational picket and press conference at 8:45 a.m. tomorrow at the Chicago Board of Education to present budget concerns around school staffing, capital improvements and long-term district sustainability.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools are sitting on $4 billion in federal funds earmarked for COVID recovery for Chicago and its public schools, but currently have no plans to use those funds for vaccinations, staffing or other measures critical for a safe and equitable  reopening in the fall.

Tomorrow’s action follows reports that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will recommend that Americans return to indoor masking, particularly in crowded indoor settings.

“The guidance makes sense and so does layered mitigation, upgrades to building ventilation systems, social distancing, and a nurse and social worker in every school community,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “Families and educators deserve a commitment from the mayor and her CPS team that they will spend the $4 billion our city and schools received from the federal government on our COVID-19 survival and recovery.”

Many Chicago public schools were already in crisis before the COVID-19 pandemic due to years of neglect and structural racism. The $4 billion in federal relief funds provided by the Biden Administration have the potential to transform CPS and the mayor’s ability to get resources into schools and underserved communities across the city.

This will not happen, however, without a bold vision and a concrete plan that district leadership implements with other stakeholders. The mayor and CPS must provide meaningful engagement with parents concerned about their children’s safety, as the vast majority of Chicago’s Black and Brown families chose to keep their children out of public school buildings this spring due to the impact of COVID on their communities.

“The mayor and her CPS team cannot reopen schools safely without our union, or our communities, as partners,” Sharkey said. “Their go-it-alone attitude and refusal to set vaccination goals for students and their families has irreparably damaged our chances of getting a higher percentage of middle school and high school students vaccinated before the beginning of the school year.

“They must look at educators and the families we serve as partners, not obstacles, in securing the good health and stability of our city.”