CHICAGO, November 30, 2021Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement today in wake of a press conference with Mayor Lightfoot’s top doc and CPS CEO:

Science and sickness is telling us some ugly truths: this global pandemic is not over, cases continue to rise everwhere, and a new variant is raising concerns. We hoped to hear Mayor Lightfoot’s top doc and school CEO talk about ramping up desperately needed COVID testing and vaccination in our schools — as well as a science-based metric that puts in-person learning on an operational pause when there’s too much COVID in a classroom or a school community.

Instead, we heard the mayor’s team once again refuse to provide what our students and school communities need: layered mitigation — including universal testing, robust vaccine programs across our schools, and policies to determine if our schools are safe.

In Chicago, barely 6% of Black children aged 5-11 and only 12% of Latinx kids in that age cohort are vaccinated. Yet the mayor has not moved to ramp up testing or vaccines for our students and their families, even though data shows that her inadequate vaccine outreach contributed to unnecessary death that disproportionately hammered our Black and Brown students’ neighborhoods. The mayor’s hand-picked CEO admitted today that barely 10 percent of students are even eligible to be tested under CPS’ current ‘consent’ process.

That is irresponsible.

We know what works: layered mitigations, including surveillance testing, vaccines, a science-based safety metric. We also need a real commitment to address a dire staff shortage that is depriving traumatized students of supports they desperately need, made worse by a grossly inefficient on-boarding system that can take months to bring educators to schools.

We have $2.6 billion in federal COVID supports. Our students aren’t seeing those resources. Our school communities aren’t seeing those supports. The mayor has an ethical responsibility to direct her CPS team to reverse course, and invest in the very tactics they agree will save lives — but refuse to fund.

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