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Emanuel election stunt can’t hide seven years of neglect of West and South Side students and their schools

Emanuel recycles previously approved projects, while ‘investments’ fall far short of $3 billion in needed repairs, ignore West Side needs, ignore equity concerns and fail to address dangerous shortages of social workers, counselors, school nurses, trauma supports. 

CHICAGO, July 6, 2018—Emanuel’s announcement of $1 billion in school ‘investment’ is another election year stunt – hollow and dishonest – say public school educators, who note that Emanuel’s hand-picked school board had already approved many of the expenditures, while few announced today address critical ongoing needs.

“Where is the investment in desperately needed wrap-around services – including a dangerous shortage of counselors, social workers and certified school nurses for students traumatized by violence, sexual abuse and poverty?” asked CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “Will early childhood expenditures go to all neighborhoods, including those that serve low-income communities? Why are we expanding Emanuel’s costly, failed privatization of maintenance and facilities management? And why should we cheer facilities repairs that Emanuel has criminally delayed for years? Nothing in today’s public relations stunt ensures that ALL of our students will be provided with clean school facilities.”

Among the ‘initiatives’ Emanuel had previously announced are Pre-K and STEM expansions. North side schools that serve few Black students – Dirksen, Palmer, Waters and Rogers – will get new annexes, a move that the CTU supports but argues that these kinds of investments must be equitably made. The CTU has long advocated for investments in both Kenwood and Washington high schools, with today’s announcement a testament to CTU members’ long-term advocacy with parents and students for meaningful facilities investments in these schools. And CPS will invest $70 million in a ‘new near west high school’ that could undercut rather than invest in Wells high school, while ignoring needs in low-income Black neighborhoods on Chicago’s far West Side.

Emanuel’s ‘announcement’ today also includes $60 million in previously announced expenditures for classrooms. That Emanuel claim particularly galls educators, who say that Emanuel is actually cutting school budgets and classroom staff next year. In March, CPS promised that there would be no cuts to school budgets or staff even if enrollment at a school dropped. Instead, in April, principals got budgets that cut funding for the upcoming school year, and CPS later announced it was cutting more than 500 positions for teachers and paraprofessionals.

Chicago educators had the right to bargain to improve conditions in public schools until 1995, when the legislature handed the mayor total control over CPS and eliminated bargaining on non-economic issues like school cleanliness.

Chicagoans overwhelmingly support a return to this most basic form of democracy, as a way to bring equity, transparency and accountability into CPS, which under mayoral control has been plagued with ethics violations, scandals in special education and sexual abuse, fat cat contracts that show no evidence of benefit to students, crumbling facilities and critical shortages of frontline staff, including counselors, social workers and school nurses.

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The Chicago Teachers Union represents nearly 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in schools funded by City of Chicago School District 299, 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 www.ctunet.com.

Chicago Teachers Union