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CTU blasts mayor for fingerprint disaster – and exploiting student safety for political gain

CHICAGO, August 31, 2018—Mayor Emanuel’s political grandstanding has done nothing to protect public school students, and instead has locked out committed, caring educators from their classrooms, charges the Chicago Teachers Union. The CTU has received dozens of calls from alarmed veteran educators who have been told they are not ‘cleared’ to return to their classrooms on the first day of school this Tuesday – and it’s feared that as many as several hundred have been impacted by a disastrous CPS roll-out of fingerprinting and background checks for around 6,000 educators.

CPS banned one educator after the vendor botched her fingerprints. Another teacher and CTU delegate with no arrest record was scrambling late Thursday to fight CPS’ notification that she was barred from teaching. And at least three educators who are also CTU delegates were arrested in 2016 for civil disobedience at a protest demanding that Bank of America pay their fair share of taxes to support public schools. Their charges were dropped, but this week CPS notified them that they were not approved to return to the classroom – even though they’d previously been cleared by CPS and returned to their classrooms. CPS emailed one teacher who was re-fingerprinted in June this week, stating that she was not approved to teach – with no further instructions on how she might follow up, provide additional information or challenge the ruling.

“As a father of two boys in CPS schools, I share parents’ outrage and concern, both for the abuse that CPS swept under the rug to protect the mayor, and for Rahm’s crass political exploitation of this crisis,” said CTU Acting President Jesse Sharkey. “This is not a school safety plan – this is political cover for a mayor who’s failed our students. Teachers who taught students this summer are now being told they’re not fit to return to the classroom on Tuesday. Members who were re-fingerprinted in June and July are just now learning they’re being turned out of their classrooms. One educator who was fingerprinted and cleared to work as a new employee last January is now being told she is not approved for the new school year. There’s no evidence that anything that’s been flagged in this train wreck of a background check process presents a threat to students.”

CPS’ process to re-fingerprint and re-run background checks on thousands of educators has been plagued with problems and false starts. Issues range from long lines in sweltering conditions with few workers at fingerprint sites to CPS’ unilateral move to push back the deadline for fingerprinting by roughly a month – at a time when many educators had scheduled vacations with family members. The CTU started receiving alarmed calls and emails from members in the last week, as CPS sent out notices that they were barred from their classrooms. CTU staff have been rushing to get members’ records to CPS and challenge those rulings by the first day of school – a process that CPS should have begun weeks earlier, charge CTU officials.

“It’s outrageous that some of our most caring educators are being targeted for putting their bodies on the line to demand that big banks pay their fair share to public education – and NOT for any actions that could remotely impact the safety of students,” said CTU Political Director Stacy Davis Gates. “We always knew this process would be political and punitive – and that’s exactly what we’re seeing now. We protect students in our classrooms, and now this mayor is turning us away out of political retribution – and the incompetence of Rahm’s hand-picked school bosses.”

Chicago Teachers Union