Remarks from President Jesse Sharkey addressing the Chicago Public Schools plan to keep schools closed through April 20. The Union expects CPS protocol for pay, benefits and curriculum for this extension to remain the same as the current plan for teachers, PSRPs, nurses, librarians, clinicians and social workers.

First, on behalf of our union, I would like to express sincere condolences for those who have passed away from this deadly virus, which includes Ms. Patricia Frieson of the Auburn Gresham community, and know that our hearts are with their families as well as the hundreds of people suffering throughout the city and state. No matter what we do as a union, and as a city, empathy, sympathy and compassion must remain at the forefront.

We remain deeply concerned about the thousands of Chicagoans who were already suffering before the outbreak of COVID-19, and who will struggle even more in the coming months under the weight of this pandemic. Absent from the mayor’s address today was how we will provide for the needs of these individuals, in a school district that is 90 percent Black and Brown children, and where well over half of the students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

Every student needs a high-speed Internet connection, every family needs a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments, and instead of penalizing residents for being ill and trying to make ends meet, parents need commitments for paid sick leave. The Chicago Public Schools School Quality Ratings Policy, which is a construct of the district and heavily biased toward attendance data, must be abolished. This is not mandated by the state; this is under the mayor’s control.

Our members will continue to work every day until schools reopen, and I have received assurance from CPS officials that they will continue to receive full pay and benefits. The days ahead will be treated no different from the days we have already experienced. We stand in solidarity with the members of the Cook County College Teachers Union locals 1600 and 1708, our city college educators and public library staff, who have yet to receive those assurances. We also stand in solidarity with Amalgamated Transit Union locals 241 and 308 and other frontline workers, who continue to bravely serve the residents of our city in the face of a global health pandemic.

Finally, we must use this opportunity expand the public sector and ensure full recovery for all Chicagoans. Our goal as a union right now is to protect educators, students, parents and anyone connected to our schools from taking on additional financial hardship. We must secure the fabric of our communities through public investment, and when we have emerged from this crisis, secure the future of our city.