Poster about social justice

Equity Demands More Than This CPS Reopening Plan

The mayor has proclaimed that this plan is about equity and continuously talks about Black and Brown children struggling. We should provide in-person learning or a safe place to be if children are struggling, but is *this* plan the way to do it?

We are asking all teachers to return to school in order to teach, at most, 37% of the students in person, while the rest stay remote. Yes, some teachers have gotten accommodations, but have those schools been supported in finding subs to replace them? I’ve worked at schools in CPS that have an easier time finding subs and schools that have a harder time. Is the district helping schools or are schools solving this on their own?

We are shifting the schedule of all of the students to allow 37% to return in-person. Some schools do not have the personnel to offer kids staying remote the same opportunities as they will offer in-person kids, like specials classes. Many schools are changing teacher assignments in mid-year, so that teachers staying home can teach students staying home, and teachers in-person can teach students in-person. Kids and students finally have stability. Is it worth all this disruption?

Even with all this disruption, many teachers will now have to learn how to teach simultaneously. Teachers have continuously been asked to reinvent ourselves over the last year. I love learning and developing myself as a teacher, but at times it’s frustrating to spend a LOT of time and energy mastering something that may not really be part of my long-term “teaching toolbox.” Of course I’m willing to learn, but let’s be aware of what we are asking of teachers.

A disproportionate share of white students have elected to return to school. I will not pretend to know everyone’s story. I know kids from all races and classes are struggling, but when we put so much time and energy and money and personnel behind a decision that will benefit a minority of the district and a disproportionate amount of white students, we have to pause.

City Leaders Must Ask What Families Need

As a teacher, I’ve never been allowed to “ignore the data.” CPS is spending a LOT of time and energy on the minority of students choosing to return. They need to spend that same time and energy on the other families.

If CPS and City Hall are really about equity, then leaders must SEEK OUT the families they say they are trying to help and see what they need. Mayor Lightfoot, that would be a much better use of your time than trying to shame teachers.

Kids are struggling, teachers are struggling, parents are struggling. This is a pandemic that has gone on for FAR too long. Still, even in the midst of our frustration, those of us who have chosen CPS must hold the district to a higher standard.

Yes, seek parent voice. Yes, let’s do our best to support parents who want to return to school. But if we are seeking equity, it’s time to stop assuming that simply reopening schools will solve these issues. It’s time to start LISTENING to the families of Black and brown children and students with special needs. 

If we consider ourselves allies, those of us with power—through education, money, race, status—we must demand that the system do better. We need to step and ask for more than just reopening schools, even if that more doesn’t directly benefit our kids.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.

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Heather Debby

Heather Debby

Heather Debby comes from a CPS family: she teaches middle school English, her husband is an elementary PE teacher, and her daughters are preschoolers. In addition to teaching, she loves running, reading, bottle hunting, and being involved in her local and broader Chicago community.
Heather Debby

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