President Joe Biden avoided answering a question during a press conference on Monday about whether teachers should return to school now which comes as the Chicago Teacher’s Union has defied an order to return to school.
“Right now the Chicago Teacher’s Union has refused, they’ve defied an order to return to in-person classrooms because of a lack of vaccinations,” a reporter said. “Do you believe, sir, that teachers should return to schools now?”
“I believe we should make school classrooms safe and secure for the students, for the teachers, and for the help that’s in those schools maintaining the facilities,” Biden responded. “We need new ventilation systems in those schools. We need testing for people coming in and out of the classes. We need testing for teachers as well as students, and we need the capacity, the capacity to know that in fact the circumstance in the school is safe and secure for everyone.”
“For example, there’s no reason why the clear guidance will be that every school should be thoroughly sanitized, from the lavatories to the hallways,” he continued. “So this is about making — and none of the school districts that I’m aware of, there may be some public school districts, have insisted all those pieces be in place. I might add, it’s the same kind of thing I hope we can do with small businesses and businesses — making sure they have the capacity to test their workers when they come in, to make sure they have plastic dividers between their booths in their restaurants, etc… to make sure they can sanitize.”
“It’s not so much about the idea of teachers aren’t going to work,” he concluded. “The teachers I know, they want to work. They just want to work in a safe environment and as safe as we can rationally make it. We can do that and we should be able to open every school, kindergarten through 8th grade, if in fact we administer these tests. It will have the added advantage, I might add, of putting millions of people back to work. All those mothers and fathers at home taking care of their children rather than going to work, even when they can work, they’re not able to do it unless they have the luxury of working distance-wise like many of us do.”
The Associated Press noted that district officials in Chicago have said that defying an order to return to work amounts to “an illegal strike.”
“School officials have argued that remote learning isn’t working for all students, including many low income and Black and Latino students who make up the majority of the district,” the AP reported. “The district’s safety plan includes thousands of air purifiers, more cleaning and a voluntary testing program.”
Biden endorses the Chicago Teachers Union’s illegal strike: "We need new ventilation systems in the schools, we need testing for people coming in and out of the classes, we need testing for teachers as well as students" pic.twitter.com/yREyDr6H3F
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 25, 2021
This report has been updated to include additional information.