In early 2021, CPS demanded that teachers return to classrooms to resume in person instruction, and teachers refused. Now, students’ education is once again in jeopardy.
Teachers claim classrooms still aren’t safe, but the Chicago Public School system received a projected $2.79 billion from the federal government to increase safety in schools, according to projections from Fox Business.
In 2020, Chicago had 20,927 full-time teachers at a total payroll cost of $2.3 billion, according to a response to a Freedom of Information Act request by our organization, OpenTheBooks.com. Our auditors found that the average Chicago teacher earned $108,730 last year—$81,422 in salary and another $27,307 in benefits. Further, teachers are allowed to accumulate up to 244 sick days for use or pension credit. (A full school year runs only 175 days.)
As part of the CARES Act in March of 2020, Congress authorized a grant program called Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding. There have since been three rounds of ESSER funding, and it’s intended to be used on safety measures like masks, personal protective equipment, testing, and classroom modifications to allow for social distancing.
Some funds were also allocated for the purpose of helping kids catch up on learning after pandemic setback. According to the size of CPS system, Fox Business calculated that this funding would amount to $2.79 billion.
For its part, the City of Chicago has used this money to invest in the safety of public schools. For example, they spent $8.5 million on 20,000 surgical quality HEPA air purifiers in every classroom. They also evaluated and improved ventilation systems in every school, and increased cleaning and disinfection procedures.
However, all of this hasn’t been enough for the teachers’ union, even after demanding to be first in line to receive the Covid vaccine. Two years and billions of dollars later, many students are still suffering from remote learning while teachers continue to get paid without having to show up in person for work.