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Chicago Public School (CPS) system is the most understaffed in Illinois, where throughout the state the average student to staff ratio is 11 to one. In the CPS system, it is 16 to one—16 students to every one teacher, and that is just going by averages (Sepeda-Miller, 2018). As Laraviere (2019) puts it, “the 20 most adequately staffed school districts in Illinois have 100 staff members for every 500 students.” Yet in CPS, it is just 29 staff for every 500 students (Laraviere, 2019)—which means when compared to the best that Illinois has to offer, Chicago looks like the worst. That is a serious shame for a city and school system that should be recognized and hailed as the state’s top district. Instead, the reality is that there is no maximum limit on classroom size in the CPS system (Guerrero, 2019), and some classes can grow much larger than already woeful average student to teacher ratios. What all this means is that teachers are at a severe disadvantage and students at an even worse disadvantage since it is their future that is really the concern here. And students are getting short-changed. They and their families seem to know that, too, because enrollment in the district has been declining for years as an exodus—student flight from the district—is massively underway (Leone, 2019). In short, the CPS is in a pitiful state—underfunded, understaffed, with too few teachers, nurses, social workers, and psychologists on hand to provide the school system with the support and guidance it needs. The overall impact is that the CPS system is negatively impacting children by what amounts to a case of educational negligence. This paper will describe this negligence and show what needs to be done to fix the situation and make CPS better for students.
The problem of understaffing is first and foremost the biggest issue that CPS faces. It is caused by the issue of underfunding and a pension plan disaster plaguing the city’s public sector jobs. Teachers do not want to take up jobs not knowing what the future holds and many are already striking to show that they mean it: they want change and they want it now. As Guerrero (2019) notes, “teachers citywide are striking for a better contract that’ll provide more nurses, social workers and a cap in classroom size in CPS.” As the third largest school district in the United States, CPS teachers should be heard loud and clear, but the city’s leaders do not seem to be…
…these demands. The money is not there and the expectations that teachers have for serious pension plans are too great. The reality is that everyone needs to reduce their expectations. Teaching is a noble profession and it should pay well to reflect the importance of the job. But if schools cannot offer the pay that should be expected and cannot provide students with the learning experience they should have, then they should close. It is not fair to pretend and extend. Closing would likely lead to further migration—but it would at least be an honest admission that the current situation is untenable.
Being honest about what needs to be done would also open up the opportunity for innovative new alternatives. Instead of a school system like what is currently offered, CPS could come up with new approaches to meeting the educational needs of students in Chicago. Perhaps more vocational training opportunities or co-ops could be made available to students who want to get real about what the real world wants from them. Sometimes a crisis is a perfect opportunity to disrupt and challenge the status quo and rethink the environment that people have become used to just accepting as though there could never possibly be another way to think…
Blatchford, P., & Russell, A. (2019). Class size, grouping practices and classroom management. International Journal of Educational Research, 96, 154-163.
Guerrero, M. (2019). Understaffed and overcrowded: Chicago teachers on strike. Retrieved from https://depauliaonline.com/43619/news/understaffed-and-overcrowded-chicago-teachers-on-strike/
Laraviere, T. (2019). Is the teachers' union demanding enough? Retrieved from https://www.chicagobusiness.com/opinion/teachers-union-demanding-enough
Leone, H. (2019). Chicago Public Schools’ enrollment drops another 6,000 students, extending long downward trend. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/breaking/ct-cps-chicago-public-schools-enrollment-decline-20191108-u7qkibaptnb7ljyob3frclgldy-story.html
Sepeda-Miller. (2018). Is CPS the most understaffed district in Illinois? Retrieved from https://www.politifact.com/illinois/statements/2018/jun/21/troy-laraviere/cps-most-understaffed-district-illinois/
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