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Report: Emanuel’s new graduation requirements shortchange students while CPS undermines career/tech path to living wage work

CPS must reinvest in rather than continue to scale back career/technical ed programs, while mayor must abandon inequitable student-based budgeting scheme. Without progressive change, thousands could be denied chance to meet District’s new graduation mandates or access living wage work in growing economic sectors.

CHICAGO, March 26, 2018:  The Chicago Teachers Union released a new report today underscoring the critical importance of career and technical education programs – CTE in education parlance. Teachers argue that CTE options for students are particularly critical if high school students are to be adequately empowered to meet the District’s stringent new graduation requirements. And the report raises the urgency of embracing the state's more equitable new funding formula rather than Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's 'student-based budgeting' scheme.

Beginning with the class of 2022, students cannot graduate from CPS without proof of a solid post-secondary plan: enrollment in college or an apprenticeship program, employment, or military service. The new requirement is one of Emanuel’s primary propositions to convey that he’s working to improve educational outcomes for public school students.

Yet Emanuel's policies instead continue to undermine both students' educational outcomes and educational stability. Emanuel has insisted on funding schools through SBB, his 'student-based budgeting' formula, instead of the more equitable formula that is now state law. Elementary students are poised to be notified on March 30 of their high school matches through GoCPS, CPS’s new high school enrollment system. But with scaled back and poorly managed CTE at many high schools, students may be locked out of opportunities to build skill-sets that enhance employment opportunities and career paths for graduates – and their ability to meet CPS’ new graduation requirements.

“The mayor has essentially orchestrated an unfunded graduation mandate,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “Our schools confront an acute shortage of high school counselors, college and career coaches and other staff who make it possible for students to successfully meet Emanuel’s post-secondary graduation requirement – virtually guaranteeing that this policy will fail thousands of our students. At the same time, Emanuel’s hand-picked CPS leadership has both mismanaged and scaled back the CTE programs that could give graduates a powerful leg up as skilled new workers with today’s employers. And ALL education programs are shortchanged by SBB.”

The report documents CTE mismanagement – including fewer opportunities in many high schools today than in past years – while the need for more robust programming in middle and high schools is growing. Greater investment would 'provide more stability, better promotion of CTE and provide more workplace learning opportunities,' says the report.

"Neglect of CTE continues to lock students out of participating in some of Chicago’s most vibrant and rapidly growing employment sectors, from construction and new manufacturing to the health sciences," said Sharkey. "We must do better – and we can start by re-investing in CTE and abandoning an SBB formula that hurts poor students the most."

The CTU is proposing tangible steps to address these challenges:

  • CPS must Increase investment in CTE at the middle and high school level to expand students’ access to living wage post-secondary work and careers. This investment would also increase the pool of workers that today’s employers need and seek - and help connect low-income students with lifelong living wage work;
  • CPS must adequately staff critical positions – including at least 95 additional career counselors – if Emanuel’s graduation mandate is to succeed instead of serving as another barrier to a high school diploma for disadvantaged students.
  • Emanuel and CPS must replace SBB with the state's new equity-based funding formula – a move that would help ensure that schools that serve the poorest students would have adequate resources to meet those students' needs.

The full report can be downloaded at this link: www.ctunet.com/research/a-city-that-works

Chicago Teachers Union