The Chicago Teacher’s Union has been at odds with Mayor Lori Lightfoot and school district officials for months trying to get a deal done that would clear the way for in-person instruction. But as study after study shows the failure of remote learning, and the district spends $100 million to make the classrooms safe for all, the union ignores the science, ignores the pleas of minority parents who fear their children are being left behind, and continues to demand they be guaranteed their safety.
They are demanding that all district workers be vaccinated before reopening the schools. They also want strict protocols in place that would shut the system down again at the first sign of an outbreak. They are demanding that teachers with relatives who are more vulnerable to serious illness continue to teach remotely, and they don’t want to be fired for disobeying the order to report to work on Monday.
But it’s for the kids, right?
Chicago Public Schools said that while Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines state that vaccinating staff is not imperative to safely reopening schools with mitigations in place, they are planning on vaccinating 1,500 school district employees every week. In a news release Friday, the union responded saying that educators, clerks and other school district employees are already struggling to get vaccinated “under the mayor’s ‘Hunger Games’ system of vaccine distribution.”
Chicago Public Schools “will only commit to vaccinate about 1,500 workers per week, giving no priority to staff expected to return first or those living or working in the hardest-hit communities — while refusing to increase its share of vaccine doses as City of Chicago supply increases,” the union said.
The union wants teachers — even the young, healthy ones — prioritized for the vaccine over seniors and other vulnerable Chicagoans. That’s too much for Mayor Lightfoot who has indicated she expects most of the teachers back to work on Monday. Those that don’t show up will be locked out.
The union says that a lockout would trigger a strike vote. So far, parents have been backing the teachers but there is growing unease in minority communities over how far behind their children are falling in classes.
One group the teachers can definitely call on for support are the politicians they own, including the president of the United States. His own CDC is telling the teachers it’s OK to go back to work but he is siding with the teachers’ unions.
Despite the seemingly definitive statement from the CDC, the White House has declined to take a firm stance on teacher vaccinations. Asked about it on Thursday, Biden press secretary Jen Psaki said Walensky was speaking “in her personal capacity” and that the White House would await updated school guidance that Biden has requested from the CDC.
“Obviously she’s the head of the CDC, but we’re going to wait for the final guidance to come out so we can use that as a guide for schools around the country,” Psaki said.
Biden has pledged to reopen most of the nation’s K-8 schools within his first 100 days in office, a goal he says is possible if Congress approves his pandemic rescue plan and if states prioritize teachers in vaccine rollouts. In many states, teachers are being included early in a second wave of shots.
But the plan has drawn fire from critics who say Biden is cowing to teachers unions who see him as an ally.
Lightfoot is through coddling the union and parents would be cool toward any kind of job action by teachers, including a strike. The union’s allies are dwindling the longer they play this ridiculous game.