Now, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is demanding to know exactly how that money is being spent after it voted to close schools Tuesday evening to go back to remote classes until the current spike in COVID-19 cases "substantially subsides." The vote resulted in classes being canceled on Wednesday.
"The in-person learning that some of us are getting is still not where it needs to be because the district, the mayor, refuses to put the resources into schools. She spent $100 million. She got $2 billion. … What is the percentage on $100 billion to $2 billion?" CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said during a Wednesday morning Zoom meeting.
"Where are the expenditures from the $2 billion that give the students what they need in their school communities? We haven't seen them," Gates continued, adding that teachers have not seen "any academic recovery" since the COVID-19 pandemic initially shut Chicago schools down in 2020.
CTU members will return to in-person learning once cases subside or union leaders approve an agreement for safety protocols with the district.
"The mayor’s CPS team has repeatedly failed to meet even its own modest promises in testing and contact tracing, refused to stand up a robust student vaccine program, refused to document HVAC safety, failed to maintain even 3-foot social distancing, failed to improve serious problems with sanitation and cleanliness, and continues to reject a science-based metric to determine when there’s too much COVID to learn in-person safely," CTU said in a Jan. 2 press release.
Data from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) website shows 35,816 tests were completed between Dec. 26 and Jan. 1, but 24,986 were deemed "invalid" because of delays brought on by "weather and holiday-related shipping issues," the testing vendor, COLOR, told CBS Chicago.
CPS has so far funded in-school testing at all public schools (10,000 out of about 340,000 total public school students were tested Monday); access to free COVID-19 vaccines; $15 million in HEPA air filters; and $141.4 million in "improved mechanical system upgrades," according to a Tuesday press release.
The district told FOX Business that funding will also go toward social emotional learning (SEL) and mental health supports, addressing enrollment impacts of the pandemic, mitigating unfinished learning, supporting stability and safe return to school, improving virtual learning and technology, and other initaitives.
A breakdown of the district's budget, which come from a total of $2.6 billion in education funding from both the Biden and Trump administrations, between fiscal year 2021 and 2024 can be found on the CPS website.
Chicago's two-year "Moving Forward Together" initiative allocates the following: $631 million to address students' social-emotional needs and accelerate learning after the pandemic; $438 million in funding for student academic and emotional support; $193 million for "targeted student support based on individual school needs"; $734 million in operational investments; $447 million to support school personnel; and $678 million to support "continued priority programmatic investment in schools," CPS said.
About 82% of the district's roughly 21,600 teachers reported to work Monday, according to CPS, which was lower than usual, but that schools remained open for in-person instruction. Schools will close only if 40% of staff does not report to work. Additionally, 90% of teachers are vaccinated against the virus.
Parents and staff can check the status of ventilation systems in individual classrooms on the CPS website.
The Chicago School District spent as much as $30,000 per pupil in operational and instructional expenses in 2020, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.
Chicago's COVID-19 cases have spiked to record highs with a daily average of 4,775 cases, or 176.4 per 100,000 residents, but deaths remain low with a daily average of 11 deaths, or 0.4 per 100,000 residents. Nearly 65% of all Chicagoans are fully vaccinated.
Fox News' Ronn Blitzer, Emma Colton and Brie Stimson contributed to this report.