Apr 16, 2018
When Chicago Public Schools recently did a “blitz” of health inspections at 125 of the system’s 650 schools, 91 failed. CPS’s own inspectors found rodent droppings, pest infestations, filthy food-preparation equipment, and bathrooms that were dirty, smelly and lacking hot water.
Behind all of this filth is the privatization of custodial services. CPS turned over management of these services to corporate giants Aramark and Sodexho-Magic. At the time, the School Board claimed this would both save the schools money and result in cleaner schools. But Aramark and Sodexho realized “savings” by laying off the people doing the cleaning. The number of custodians working in the buildings has dropped by about half.
It has been obvious for months that privatization has produced filthy schools. Last June, a number of Kenwood Academy students complained of nasty conditions at a Board of Education meeting. Mollison Elementary parents brought in news outlets to publicize the rat infestation at their school.
The custodians themselves have been speaking out. 150 picketed the Board of Education the week before the “blitz.” One explained that she spent hundreds of dollars out of her own pocket to buy cleaning supplies: “The cleaner I get is 98 percent water and 2 percent solution. I can’t clean 15 rooms, a library, six bathrooms and three flights of stairs with water.” She pointed out that CPS and Aramark were faking their inspection system before this “blitz”: the inspector would visit one school, and then Aramark would tip off all the schools in the area. “That’s the only time you get supplies, everything you need, when they’re having a ‘blitz’ or an inspection.”
Despite their criminally poor work, the management companies are set to take over management of all maintenance and facility services at the schools. Clearly, CPS puts the profits of these corporations before the health of students and teachers.