The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phone: 312-329-9100

City Hall, CPS Must Commit to Supporting Every Student and Family Through Deadly COVID-19 Pandemic

Chicagoans voted for real equity in 2019, and it’s time for City Hall to embrace and support common good needs for working class families.


CTU President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement today in the wake of the announcement that Chicago Public Schools would begin the school year with remote learning on September 8:

Congratulations to the mayor for being willing to listen to the concerns of families, educators, community groups and health professionals. Now that she has stepped away from a dangerous Trump/DeVos scheme to force in-person learning this fall, we hope she will embrace guidelines set forth by real public health experts.

We have 35 days until students report to school. Our remote learning experience must include the infrastructure, professional development, family outreach and staff support to make remote learning robust and enriching for every student. We have a long way to go and a short time to get there. CPS must immediately start planning transparently and in partnership with our union to provide every student the educational, social and emotional supports they need to learn and grow.

We may not be teaching and supporting students in person this fall, but tens of thousands of teachers, clinicians, PSRPs, nurses, librarians and more stand ready to support our students through this pandemic. CPS' remote learning plan must vastly improve on student and family experiences from the spring, and experts on the ground--our members--must be equal partners with the district in crafting those remote learning plans.

Our hardest-hit working families also desperately need and deserve support. The moratorium on evictions expires August 22, and the mayor must work with local and state officials to prevent the wave of evictions and foreclosures that threaten Chicago residents and many CPS families. She must work with community advocates to ensure that the city's essential workers have access to child care as they work through the pandemic. Her appointed Chicago Board of Education and CPS leaders must work with the Union and our partners in labor to aid every school worker in supporting our students.

The mayor must step up her efforts to make sure that all of our residents and neighborhoods--particularly Black and Brown communities which have borne the brunt of illness and death from the COVID-19 pandemic--are protected from the inequity that this virus has intensified. She must make her campaign commitment to equity a reality this summer by providing working families a guaranteed basic income, and every Chicagoan access to health care, living wages and affordable housing as we manage this pandemic.

Instead of placing the onus on our members, who worked tirelessly in the spring and will do so again in the fall, the mayor and CPS CEO Janice Jackson need to take accountability for the district they lead. Mayoral control of both CPS and the Chicago Housing Authority wait list means we shouldn't have nearly 20,000 students in temporary living situations. It also means immediately taxing the rich to provide broadband Internet and devices to every child in CPS--not just 100,000--over the next five years.

We need leadership in this city that supports the common good and provides the infrastructure to guarantee recovery for all in the era of COVID-19. Chicagoans deserve real equity, not intermittent corporate "charity" that does nothing to address systemic inequality. The mayor must move to address critical community needs by ending handouts to agencies like the Chicago Police Department, and instead, investing those funds into the needs of our school communities.

Our students and their families are counting on us to help them withstand the trauma, loss and hardship that COVID has forced upon them. We call on the mayor and her handpicked Board of Ed to join us in transforming Chicago into a city grounded in true racial and economic justice. Anything less perpetuates the inequality that has plagued our city for generations--and that's not good enough.

An affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), CTU is the third largest teachers local in the country and the largest local union in Illinois.