News & Politics

Chicago School District and Teachers in Standoff Over Return to in-Person Instruction

(Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune via AP)

The Chicago Teachers Union has been moving the goalposts on district leaders who have been trying to negotiate a return to in-person instruction for the last month. First, they insisted that the school’s reopening plan was totally inadequate. When the district answered their concerns, they added the demand that all teachers would have to be vaccinated before a return to work.

That’s just not going to happen. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is insisting the schools will reopen on Monday while the teachers are advising parents on social media to keep their kids home. And negotiations about a potential compromise have hit a snag over the safety plan based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Chicago public health authority.

The clash may result in a teachers’ strike. The teachers haven’t set a strike vote yet but may hold one early next week.

Schools have opened all over the country using the CDC guidelines but the Chicago Teachers Union still isn’t satisfied. They want an ironclad guarantee that none of their members will get sick.

Fox News:

Ultimately, Chicago Public Schools wants to offer its K-8 students two days a week of in-person learning starting Feb. 1, with the rest of their instruction being virtual.

Whether or not that will happen though remains unknown, as the district and union are locked in a stalemate.

The teachers union statement paints CPS as a group of uncaring monsters “pushing” teachers back into unsafe classrooms.

“The District has refused to allow educators to be vaccinated before they’re pushed back into classrooms,” the Chicago Teachers Union said Friday in an update on where the negotiations stand. “And CPS has rejected or ignored thousands of requests from educators for health accommodations for themselves or household members with hypertension, heart disease and other health conditions that put them at higher risk of COVID sickness and death.”

For the record, the vaccine protocols established by the State of Illinois kept teachers from receiving vaccines before some other groups. But as of Monday, the teachers are eligible to get inoculated. And they want to wait until every teacher who wants to be vaccinated gets his or her shot.

Mayor Lightfoot’s office said Thursday that CPS is “continuing to work with the Chicago Department of Public Health to implement robust health and safety practices in every school building to ensure a safe experience for our students and educators.”

“The experts at the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] said it themselves: in-person learning is safe when the proper protocols are in place,” it added.

What the CDC says is irrelevant to the teachers because this tug-of-war isn’t about vaccines, or safety, or even the kids. This is the CTU exercising its power and proving to the mayor, CPS, and anyone who is paying attention where the real power in the city lies.

One headline in the Chicago Tribune put it well: “CTU’s Sharkey for Mayor? Why Not, Isn’t He Already the Boss?” That’s how powerful the CTU has become. And when education takes a backseat to the grasping for power, the kids are the losers.

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