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Chicago Public Schools And Teachers Union Reach Agreement
US-NEWS-CHICAGO-MAYOR-TEXTS-TB Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker at times responded to texts from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, shown Dec. 20, 2021, by saying they should discuss matters over the phone. (E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) Chicago Tribune / Contributor
E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune/Contributor/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Students in Chicago public schools will be able to go back to classes on Wednesday after the school district and the teachers union reached an agreement following days of standoff between the two as teachers refused to work. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) announced the news late Monday night. 

She posted on Twitter, saying, “After a productive day at the bargaining table, I am pleased to report, CTU [Chicago Teachers Union] will end their work stoppage. CPS put a great proposal on the table that both bargaining teams discussed in detail today. We will be able to get our children back in the classroom on Wednesday.”

She added, “Some will ask who won and who lost but no one wins when our students are out of the place where they can learn the best & where they’re safest.”

The Washington Post reported that Lightfoot told reporters that Chicago would broaden testing and build up contact tracing. They will also provide standards for shutting down schools with outbreaks. The Chicago Teachers Union’s members had discussed worries and fear over contracting the coronavirus in school.

The Daily Wire reported last week that the teachers union told its members to stay home from school, and the disagreement between the two groups continued into this week as classes continued to be canceled.

CNN further reported on Tuesday that 340,000 students in the school system haven’t been in class since January 4.

According to teachers union president Jesse Sharkey, almost two-thirds of the teachers union’s House of Delegates voted to go back to school, per The Post. The remaining 25,000 members of the union still have to vote to approve the agreement.

Teachers in Chicago have been pushing for more safety conditions in the schools, like K95 masks for teachers and students, testing to happen more often, and the ability to take unpaid leave if a worker’s medical situation makes them high-risk if they get COVID-19. Teachers also put forward standards for stopping in-person teaching in the midst of virus outbreaks.

The deal also allows schools to go remote if 25% of the workers test positive for COVID-19, per Fox News.

At a press conference, Lightfoot said, “no one’s more frustrated than I am. No one’s more frustrated than I am. We should have stayed at the table and worked this out. That’s why I said early on ‘enough is enough’ and drew the line. This was not necessary to happen.”

She added, “Three work stoppages in three years? Of course people are frustrated. Why wouldn’t they be?”

She noted that the proposed agreement takes them through the end of summer school this year. 

“This mayor is unfit to lead this city, and she is on a one-woman kamikaze mission to destroy our public schools,” CTU Vice President Stacey Davis Gates said during a virtual Monday news conference, noting that the deal is the “only modicum of safety that is available for anyone who steps foot into” the Chicago schools, per Fox News.

Lightfoot has spoken harshly against the teachers union last week for refusing to come back to the classroom, per The Daily Wire. 

“Unfortunately, I think the only way to read it is the union trying to politicize the pandemic, which is really incredibly sad,” Lightfoot said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” 

“When asked what the teachers union got out of pursuing the fight, Lightfoot responded that the union gets to ‘flex their power,” The Daily Wire noted.  

“They do it at the expense of our children,” she said. “They do it at the expense of our families. We know that when we were fully remote previously, 100,000 of our kids lost contact and would disengage from the system. We saw in the elementary schools the failure rate during remote learning triple from what it was. We saw the trauma and social emotional harm to students across our system.”

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