Everyone knows public education in Chicago is failing.
Nearly 300 Chicago Public Schools are underperforming and on probation – meaning student reading and math scores are not improving and haven’t been for at least three years. Nearly half of CPS students fail to graduate, and the numbers are far worse for students from our communities. While a small group of schools and students are thriving, a large majority of students and their families are getting left behind.
It’s about time we fought for our children who have no voice. Too often in recent years, CPS has done right by everyone but our children. All of us – parents, teachers, administrators, elected officials and community members – must make sacrifices for the sake of our children and their future.
Last Wednesday, over 100 students, parents and community leaders from the South Side and West Side attended a rally and press conference at City Hall demanding the needs of CPS students be put first.
We spoke about fighting for our children on the doorstep of the City Hall offices of our mayor and aldermen who need to do right by CPS students. In these difficult economic times, we called on everyone to do their part to make sure budget cuts do not have a dramatically negative impact on our children.
Groups participating in Wednesday’s press conference included the Concerned Citizens of Burnside, Cottage Grove Community Coalition, Golden Gates Community Organization, People Organized for Public Progress, Save Our Schools Coalition, Sustainable Englewood Initiative, New Sullivan Parents, and other CPS parents and students.
We said CPS needs to make budget decisions which avoid hurting our kids and also released a letter sent to the leadership of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) signed by more than 100 parents and community organizations representing nearly 50 CPS schools.
In our letter, we called on the union to drop its push for mandatory 4 percent raises for teachers to avoid increases in class size, teacher layoffs and maintain full funding of school programs.
We are concerned about recent reports in the paper and on TV that the CTU is not willing to do its part, even threatening to strike if it doesn’t get its way. CTU needs to consider the impact of a strike on our children and the immediate and long-term harm a strike would cause to their futures.
We know all teachers do not feel this way. We all appreciate the long hours, hard work and dedication of our teachers. In better times, we support paying teachers more and further rewarding them. Hopefully, those days are not too far away. Until then, we must all do our part to address the challenges and struggles of today. That includes the CTU, too.
The times of accepting failure and looking out for everyone but our children are over. With new leadership in place and a movement in our communities calling for an end to failing schools, the time is now to fight for our children. They need more time in the classroom, and we need more accountability at CPS – from the CEO and principals down to teachers and coaches.
As parents and community leaders, our leaders must know we will do whatever it takes to make sure we do right by CPS students.
Sandra Patterson is vice-chair of the Local School Council at Scmid Elementary and the president of the Cottage Grove Heights Community Coalition.