At this week’s House of Delegates meeting, by a near unanimous vote, members passed a resolution calling for an escalation of actions to pressure Mayor Lightfoot to agree to a security deal. Given what we heard yesterday at the bargaining table – no more of the same lies, dishonesty and, if you can believe it, no more disinterest in our members and our school communities – we believe that a The united city-wide action of our members is the only thing that will force them to give in.
Over the summer, CPS pledged to test 100 percent of students, but seven weeks after the start of the school year, only 7 percent of students take the tests. Compare that to Los Angeles, where the district performs 500,000 tests per week. Acero, where we have a safety agreement in place, tests 80 percent of the students per week.
We have a new CEO, who boasts of his 100% success in COVID testing in his last job and promises to step up testing here. But he can’t quite say how or when. CRPD director Dr Awardy says she has never agreed to this 100 percent target and insists that a 10 percent test rate would be adequate.
But our fight is for much more than “adequate” security. Our members, students and school communities deserve maximum safety and we won’t get there without a strong screening and vaccination plan.
It is quite clear that the CPS deliberately created a cumbersome consent process, not for a legal reason, but because the district does not really want widespread testing to occur in the CPS. We only see two logical explanations for this type of sabotage. Either the mayor doesn’t want to spend the money on testing, or she’s afraid of bad press from the inevitable COVID cases the tests would reveal.
The first explanation makes no sense because the CPS alone has $ 2 billion in COVID relief funds, allocated by the federal government for exactly this type of spending. But the second explanation is even more troubling because the lack of a rigorous testing program puts our members, students and their families at risk.
We have already lost two parents at Jensen Elementary to COVID, after their children were sent home due to exposure to COVID. What will it take for the mayor to take safety in our schools seriously?
A strong testing program would provide the confidence and credibility that CPS desperately needs right now and reassure school communities that their schools are safe. The mayor must commit real resources to the tests instead of just talking.
We have seen some movement today on the staffing that we have demanded. We have sounded the alarm about the severe shortage of substitutes – a problem before the pandemic, but a crisis today. CPC has informed us that it will be hiring additional executives for 39 schools that have a teacher vacancy rate of 10% or more.
Additionally, the district said it was willing to offer an incentive of $ 420 to daily subscribers who work more than 12 days per month. This is a good start, but not enough to address the serious lack of substitutes that plagues all of our schools. And it does nothing to meet the urgent need for more nurses, social workers, counselors and librarians.
We remain clear on what we and the public need to be confident that our schools are operating safely:
- COVID test of students and staff once a week
- Contact search within 48 hours
- Immunization programs in at least 100 schools per week
- Adequate staffing – especially nurses, social workers and substitute teachers
- Security indicators
On October 15, we call for a Day of Action for Safety, Solidarity and Community. Join your colleagues for a walk, mini-rally, or flyer event outside of your school to reach parents. Use our recently updated flyer outlining the top 5 CTU security requirements. Stay on top of the issues with our updated bargaining board. And don’t forget to wear your red CTU!
I would also like to remind you that CPA requires that all members present proof of their immunization status by October 15th. This means that you must start the COVID vaccination process before this date or you will not be allowed to work in your school.
As a union, we care deeply about your rights. We have members with legitimate medical and religious reasons to refuse the vaccine and we will defend and support them. But, remember, we fought hard to make vaccinations a critical safety guard before returning to our buildings last year and that is still vital protection.
Obtaining a safety agreement is at the heart of our fight to ensure the safety of our schools. But in terms of individual safety, the COVID vaccine is so important. I no longer want to attend the funeral of the members.
Stay safe, stand united and join us on our day of action on October 15th. Together, we will earn the safety our students, their families and our school communities need and deserve.