We’ve been bargaining with CPS regularly for a little over two weeks now in an attempt to land an agreement for a safe return to schools in the fall. The release of CPS’ operating and capital budget framed our talks yesterday. The mayor has unprecedented resources to invest in our school communities — $2 billion in federal COVID relief funds — but plans to spend just $500 million of that on school needs. This is unacceptable.
We have been clear about what our members, our students and their families need to return to school and, more broadly, to begin the long road to recover from the pandemic. We need clear vaccination targets — we’re seeking an 80 percent vaccination rate for eligible students — accommodations for our members as part of CPS’ “Virtual Academy” and real investments in staffing and school and community resources.
At yesterday’s bargaining session, CPS had little to say about most of these demands. The district remains non-committal on: vaccination targets and programs, mask mandates, accommodations, supports for STLS students, expansion of sustainable community schools, and staffing for home visits. Even the Chicago Sun-Times has endorsed a vaccination goal for the fall, but CPS remains mum.
It doesn’t appear the district, which is essentially leaderless at this moment, has any organized plan to consider our proposals, which impact so many of our students, their families and the educators who love them. From what we’ve heard so far at the bargaining table and seen in today’s budget release, it also doesn’t appear that CPS and the mayor have any inclination to embark on the kind of transformative investments our school communities need.
We are not just recovering from a deadly pandemic; we’re recovering from decades of equally devastating disinvestment in the schools, families and communities CPS serves. Our charge in this historic moment, with unprecedented resources at our city’s disposal, is to rally our members, our families and our labor and community allies to pressure the mayor and CPS to change course.
We’ve been here before. We know what needs to be done. We will continue to bargain with CPS over fall reopening. Our goal is to build on and refine what worked well in our reopening agreements this spring and retool those provisions, like testing and contract tracing, that we found lacking. And we will continue to insist that the record federal dollars flowing to CPS be directed to meet our students’ basic needs, support homeless students, fill vacant positions and move away from the disastrous student-based budgeting which shortchanges rather than meets schools needs.
We will continue bargaining with CPS every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the summer, so look for regular updates from the table. In the meantime, please enjoy your summer break!