CPS email to parents distorts status of negotiations, undercuts input from students, parents, educators. 

CHICAGO, March 16, 2020—Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement to rank and file CTU members tonight in response to this evening’s CPS email to parents distorting the status of negotiations at the table:

You may have received an email from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s CPS leadership team this evening claiming April 19 is the target date to reopen high school buildings, based on “concepts” that our union and the district have discussed.

Let me be clear: We have no agreement on returning to in-person learning in high schools on any date, nor will there be an agreement until we know our school buildings can reopen safely.

The CPS email is unfortunately more unilateralism from the mayor’s handpicked Board of Education — a way to publicly roll out a boilerplate plan created behind closed doors with no educator support, stakeholder engagement, parent input or student agency.

Many high school students have spent their entire school careers in CPS. They are old enough, and deserve, to be a part of these conversations.

Instead, we just have disappointing business as usual from the mayor and CPS, and efforts to create a more collegial, professional dynamic at the table have been met with nothing but complete misrepresentation of the status of discussions.

So we reset.

The mayor and CPS cannot set a date for return, then inevitably blame educators if any problems meeting that deadline arise. Instead, the district must work with parents, students, educators and all stakeholders in crafting a safe plan for high school return to in-person instruction.

The mayor and CPS cannot publicly distort the state of our talks, while also stonewalling in providing critical data that must guide any agreement.

For example, we have no data on how many vaccines CPS has offered educators. We do know some educators had to miss daytime appointments because the district failed to provide substitute coverage for their students, and no teacher would ever leave their class unattended.

We know that testing protocols aren’t uniform for either students or staff in many elementary schools, while there have also been multiple breakdowns with the health screener.

CPS and the mayor continue to ignore problems with virtual learning that are negatively impacting the majority of our students who remain remote.

The district is still not sharing data on how many students have actually returned to elementary schools, as its initial estimate of 77,000 fell to 60,000 and is surely lower than that today.

CPS continues to fail in providing timely, up-to-date COVID data to both our union and the public.

None of this equates to properly running a school district in a pandemic, or engaging in responsible, good faith bargaining that will land an agreement to safely reopen our high schools.

We need safety in any reopening plan, not CPS and the mayor undermining the trust of parents, students and educators as they hide data and misrepresent talks at the bargaining table.

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.