CTU Protests Firing of Head Start Assistants

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

By: Ashmar Mandou

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union opposed the firing of 38 Head Start Program servicing Chicago Public Schools pre-kindergarten (pre-K) parents and students throughout the city during a press conference held June 28th at the CTU headquarters. “The mayor claims he is expanding pre-school access, but next year’s plan continues a pattern of reducing resources and accessibility, and families have already been dropping out of the system because it is increasingly difficult to register children for these critical programs,” said CTU President Karen Lewis who joined the press conference on Wednesday. “We currently serve less than 25 percent of the city’s children in need of early learning access with quality, full-day programs, and cutting from Head Start will exacerbate the loss of children enrolling in the program, which has already been in free fall.”

According to the CTU, the termination came without “warning and without reason,” affecting mostly women of color. “Without these community workers, children facing homelessness, hunger and poverty will not benefit from networks of resources developed by these workers,” said one CTU member. Thirty-eight experienced pre-school assistants will be replaced by just 13 new staff in an attempt to offer services to far more families. “We have decades of experience working with Head Start classrooms in our most under-resourced communities, and we help parents find employment, and access health care, job training and educational opportunities,” said Charlotte Sanders, one of the fired Head Start Program Resource Assistants. “We help homeless parents find housing and take care of their families’ basic needs, and these firings are another example of Rahm taking from those who have the least.” According to the CTU, “any gaps will be covered by requiring already understaffed schools to use existing personnel to perform the work of the fired Head Start workers. These personnel cuts come on top of a new online registration system that has made Head Start and other pre-school programs more difficult for parents to access.” Head Start is a federally funded program whose dollars do not depend on state or city government. “This announcement falls far short of any meaningful progress in closing Chicago’s gaping hole in early learning access,” Lewis said.

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