Dear Chicago parents, students, teachers, and administrators,
I am a proud Chicago Public Schools alumna. I went to Blaine Elementary School, and graduated from Lane Tech High School. As such, I am a dogged defender of public education and fully funding public schools. Today, I work for IPaintMyMind because of my time in art programs in CPS, and because I know first-hand how powerful public school arts education can be. Without the encouragement of my art teachers, and the robust arts curriculum I had access to, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I credit my time in CPS with shaping my character, curiosity, and empathy.
And as a CPS alumna and as an employee of a nonprofit that serves CPS teachers, I am extremely concerned about what is happening today to CPS teachers through this botched and unsafe Reopening Plan.
Throughout this pandemic, we have seen people in “Essential” jobs being treated like heroes and martyrs. This is undeniably what has happened to CPS teachers. As a society, we’ve decided that being a teacher is some sort of moral or philosophical position, and not a job. This re-casting of the role of a teacher seems to imply that a teacher should be fine with struggle, financial duress, and limited resources because they should simply love what they do so much that they don’t care about their material reality. It’s the argument that is used when teachers agitate for better pay and better benefits.
And it is the argument being used now to beat back teachers fearing for their lives and the lives of their families during Covid-19. It’s the argument that allows CPS and the city to cry “Equity!” when what’s really happening is the appeasement of wealthy donors, and CPS scrambling to make back pandemic losses at all costs and at the expense of educators across the city. If CPS truly cared about “Equity” it would revamp its skewed funding model that perpetuates educational segregation, and would have done it a long time ago.
Being a teacher is a job, and it’s a hard one. I know CPS educators who are on Zoom for 8-10 hours a day. Some teachers have to instruct for a full day of virtual learning while also helping their own children with virtual class and homework. Educators still pay for materials out of pocket, but now is that they may have to drive around hand-delivering the materials. CPS teachers still serve as confidantes and support systems for struggling students, but now have to do so through the mediation of a screen and in trickier virtual situations where students may feel less safe and able to share.
CPS teachers have already died from Covid-19. Many are already sick from Covid cases caught in the first full week of partial in-person instruction. We can’t pretend teachers are heroes when we treat them with such disposability.
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