Aug 5, 2019
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, under pressure from the Teachers Union, promised to add “at least” 200 social workers and 250 school nurses to the public schools. She also promised to hire additional case managers – the staff who coordinate special education for students in the schools. Of course, this has been a scandal for years: Chicago Public Schools handed much of the nursing duties in the schools over to a private operator, while it has cut back continuously on librarians, social workers and other school workers.
The union points out that Lightfoot would not write those staffing commitments into the new contract, which is under negotiation right now. And she hasn’t said whether those new hires would be fully licensed and working for the school system, or if they’d be brought on through private contractors.
Teachers and those involved in Chicago schools have plenty of experience with this kind of promise. Last July, CPS chief Janice Jackson, under the weight of a state investigation into the districts’ Special Education Services, promised to hire 150 social workers and 94 case managers. It remains unclear if even half of those positions are filled more than a year later. In the run up to the teachers’ strike in 2012, Rahm Emanuel hired about 500 art, music, science and library teachers ... only to lay them off again at the end of the year, once the contract was settled.
Lightfoot, like her predecessors, wants to make a show of helping the students of the working class. But at the same time, she does not want to put the money into the school system. It would take real money – money that would have to come from the wealthy and the corporations – to give any substance to her empty promises.