Yesterday, we reported that in addition to overfilled classrooms and leaky roofs, one of the issues that brought Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) to the point of striking is the widespread lack of air conditioning in schools. During a heat wave this summer, 21 summer schools without air conditioning actually cancelled classes out of concern for their students’ health.
On Twitter, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system responded to our reporting on the air conditioning situation:
First of all, it’s important to note that no one is calling for the air conditioning problems to be solved tomorrow. The teachers of the CTU understand that these things take time and money.
The problem is that the Chicago Public Schools have been avoiding the issue by sidestepping it in negotiations and making no substantive commitments. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel even callously dismissed teacher, student, and parent concerns about lack of air conditioning. ”It’s 71 degrees outside,” he said, either forgetting that summer will come around again or intentionally mimicking the non-credible arguments used by climate-change deniers during the winter.
While CPS is complaining about money concerns, it is also laying the groundwork to shift as much as $70 million away from the public system and to charter schools (which just happen to be mostly non-unionized). It also is planning to significantly lengthen the school day (without properly compensating teachers for the extended day). The city has used Tax Increment Financing to take money out of property tax funds and use them to funnel millions of dollars to wealthy property developers in a scheme the Chicago Reader has called a “boondoggle.” It’s almost as if the city has money for everything but improving the current public school system.
Lastly, insisting that it has schools that are 100+ years old is not a point in its favor. If the Chicago Public School system has schools that have been around for decades after the advent of modern air conditioning and still has classrooms too hot for students to sit in, it’s not doing a good job.