Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has finally pinpointed why Chicago Public Schools is having so much difficulty returning students to in-person classroom learning: former President Donald Trump.
Chicago Public School students were supposed to return to in-person learning on Monday, but the Chicago Teachers Union, long opposed to returning to CPS classrooms, refused to go back to work Monday, setting off a hot war between CPS and CTU.
Teachers say they will not give up virtual instruction until every teacher can be vaccinated, but the union is also demanding that teachers who live with “vulnerable” individuals be allowed to teach online indefinitely — and in an interview Monday, one teacher even suggested CPS could remain virtual until COVID-19 was no longer a threat.
Lightfoot initially warned teachers that remaining home would result in unexcused absences and could, eventually, cost teachers their jobs. CPS has since backed off that threat, pledging to remain at the bargaining table until an agreement could be reached with CTU.
Tuesday, though, Lightfoot had a new theory as to why Chicago students have been absent from classrooms for so long: it is Trump’s fault for a botched vaccine rollout strategy.
“Lightfoot didn’t invoke the name of the nation’s 45th president but she suggested the ongoing impasse between Chicago Public Schools and CTU, over whether it is safe to return to in-person instruction as early as Thursday, stems from the failed vaccine rollout under former President Donald Trump,” the Chicago Tribune reported.
“This is a very difficult situation and we’re in it, still, because of the incompetence of the previous administration,” Lightfoot said. “So I think it’s important for both sides to come to the table in good faith, recognize that we’re both trying to work through a very challenging situation but we must get a deal done.”
The excuse echoes those of the Biden administration, which claimed, last week, that it had inherited a “non-existent” rollout plan, despite evidence that the Trump administration had a plan in place as far back as last September.
Illinois’ state government, which was responsible for dolling out vaccines once they were distributed to states, struggled with the vaccine rollout. Per WGN, Cook County, home to Chicago, launched its vaccine appointment website just last week, nearly a month after shots became available, and has struggled to organize vaccine sites.
“Compared to other states, Illinois has among the lowest percent of its population which is vaccinated so far, although it ranks among the top in the total number of doses administered to date,” the outlet reported.
Regardless, Lightfoot herself admitted Monday that the in-person learning issue was largely a Chicago problem, telling MSNBC that the problem was “uniquely local.”
She also said that Chicago Public Schools is more than prepared to welcome back both students and teachers safely.
“Let me be very clear: Our schools are safe. We’ve invested over $100 million in ventilation, other safety protocols, making sure that we have masks, safety health screening, temperature checks — all the things that you would expect that the CDC guidance has told us that we know makes sense to mitigate any issues in schools,” Lightfoot said. “We’ve looked at and followed every study across the globe, including here in Chicago, by our local experts.”
Chicago’s private, charter, and parochial schools have also been operating in person, safely, since September.
The two parties are expected to return to the bargaining table on Wednesday.
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