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CTU: High school graduation mandates will fail students without adequate supports

Teachers criticize Emanuel announcement that City Colleges will provide additional “college navigator” supports to 1,000 high school students – less than 1% of public high school students in Chicago.

CHICAGO, January 18, 218— Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey issued the following statement today in the wake of Mayor Emanuel’s announcement that City Colleges will provide ‘college navigator’ supports for 1,000 high school students in CPS schools.

“The mayor’s new graduation requirement compels every high school student to have a ‘plan’ for college, military service, employment or trade school to graduate. Yet his announcement that CPS will partner with City Colleges today to provide ‘college navigator’ supports to 1,000 students begs a critical question: what about the other 106,000 public high school students in Chicago? Today we have critical shortages of school counselors in our schools – the people on the front lines who are tasked with supporting our students in post-secondary planning. When new mandates like the mayor’s high school graduation requirement come without meaningful new supports, this kind of mandate only further disadvantages students. In Chicago, this problem is deeply compounded for low and moderate income Black and Brown students and families as long as CPS continues to use its inequitable ‘student-based budgeting’ formula instead of the state’s new equity-based funding formula.

“At the same time, according to our colleagues in Cook County College Teachers Union Local 1600, which represents City College teachers and staff, some colleges have serious shortages of advisors -- what we call counselors in CPS. And many students in the city college system struggle to get in to see an advisor, who may carry a caseload well above the national recommendations for caseloads.

“Our goal for EVERY student should be providing a solid path to lifelong economic security, not channeling low-income students into what for poor students essentially is a poverty draft. We improve outcomes for students when the level of supports that those students get inside and outside the classroom are adequate – and today, CPS falls far short. We have fewer than 100 school nurses serving more than 500 schools. Our special education services are in disarray. Most schools continue to lack both a library and a librarian, and students in Black and Brown communities continue to be shortchanged compared to whiter, more affluent neighborhoods – even though 90% of our students are non-white. The proven sustainable community school model we’ve won in our contract could make massive strides in remedying the shortcomings of an increasingly apartheid-like education system. Yet CPS and the mayor continue to drag their feet on implementation, when instead they should be pushing to make EVERY school a sustainable community school – and ensure that EVERY student gets the supports she or he needs to thrive as adults. Finally, without meaningful revenue to address the grave funding shortfalls for classroom and school supports for our students, this mandate – however the mayor may seek to gloss over its shortcomings – simply serves as another barrier for students who are already disadvantaged by the mayor’s policies of disinvestment, gutting of affordable health care and housing, his failure to address Depression-level unemployment, and the violence and trauma that these conditions create.”

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The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information, please visit the CTU website at

Chicago Teachers Union