With Influx of Migrant Students, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez ‘Confident We Can Serve the Children’

Video: Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez appears on “Chicago Tonight” on Aug. 31, 2023. (Produced by Alexandra Silets)

As Chicago Public Schools has seen an influx of migrant students, after thousands of people have been bused to Chicago from other states over the past year, CEO Pedro Martinez said the district has been able to rely on its longstanding infrastructure to make sure these new students get the education and care they need.

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Officials last week said the district has enrolled nearly 1,200 students from migrant shelters in July and August. That total includes 146 students who came directly from police districts housing migrants and 263 students who joined through a new welcoming center at Clemente High School designed to provide enrollment services for new arrivals living in West Town and Humboldt Park.

CPS officials expect to add another 1,000 new students during the first weeks of the school year.

Martinez said the district has 3,000 certified bilingual teachers and more than 2,000 classrooms with transitional bilingual programs.

“Sometimes we do see children show up in neighborhoods or schools that don’t have these programs,” he said. “And so that’s the bigger challenge. But we actually have a lot of infrastructure and feel confident we can serve the children.”

Martinez said CPS is also working with other city departments to cover migrant families’ mental health and health care needs.

CPS is also dealing with busing issues for its diverse learner and homless student populations. The district has focused on hiring fairs, increased pay rates and additional incentives to bring in more drivers, but Martinez has said the district’s troubles are part of a much broader, national bus driver shortage.

According to Martinez, CPS had 47 diverse learner students with bus routes lasting more than an hour as of the first week of school — that’s down from the approximately 3,000 such students who had similar route times at the start of last school year.

That’s fewer than 1% of routed students, according to Martinez.

“We are now able to transport all of our diverse learners, new requests we get ... we get them routed within two weeks (and) the average route time now is 28 minutes,” he said.

Due to ongoing bus driver shortages, CPS is not currently routing any general education students.

Martinez was appointed CEO in 2021 by Johnson’s predecessor, former Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and butted heads early on with the Chicago Teachers Union — which spent significantly to back Johnson, a former teacher and CTU organizer — over COVID-19 safety measures inside schools during the pandemic.

But Martinez and Johnson have since expressed their excitement at working together and have repeatedly appeared at public events together and with CTU officials.

“I would say this, we’re both aligned in (our) vision and what we want for the district,” Martinez said. “Really it’s both of our choices about what our relationship is gonna evolve to. But I’m excited for his vision for funding in schools and we’re developing a good relationship.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson[email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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