Chicago’s teacher’s union voted on Sunday to defy Chicago Public Schools administration and refuse to return to in-person teaching even though pupils are due back in classrooms on February 1st.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has been locked in a power struggle with the union for some time, with teachers and union brass insisting that it is not safe for teachers to return to classrooms, even though Chicago’s private schools have been in-person for months. At one point, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) suggested that any plan to return to in-classroom teaching would be both racist and sexist.
As The Daily Wire reported last week, some Chicago students — mostly preschoolers and those students with moderate to severe special needs — returned to empty classrooms, with teachers calling in sick to resist CPS’s demands that they return to classrooms. The union issued a list of demands to CPS instead, pledging to remain in “virtual” classrooms until “all school employees have had the opportunity to get vaccinated, or until the city’s positivity rate falls to 3 percent and its rate of new cases falls below 400 per day.”
The city’s positivity rate is now hovering around 5%, and as of Saturday, Illinois had returned to so-called “tier 1” mitigation strategies. The state lifted the ban on in-person dining and exercise classes and now allows for groups of up to 25 to meet together provided they observe social distancing.
“Chicago Public Schools, backed by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, issued their own warning: teachers who did not show up for work Monday would be ‘deemed absent without leave and will not be eligible for pay’,” The Daily Wire noted. “On Monday, 18% of Chicago Public Schools employees did not show up for work, and Tuesday morning, WBEZ Chicago reports, CPS said they plan to make good on their threat — and, in addition, beginning Tuesday, those same teachers will be locked out of their virtual classrooms. CPS’s implication is clear: either they teach in person or they don’t teach at all.”
CPS did lock teachers out of virtual classrooms in favor of in-person substitutes. CTU called the lockout illegal.
With more teachers set to return to classrooms this week, CTU doubled down on its decision to avoid in-person teaching, according to Chicago’s WGN news.
“The Chicago Teachers Union said Sunday that its members voted to defy an order to return to the classroom before they are vaccinated against the coronavirus, setting up a showdown with district officials who have said such a move would amount to an illegal strike,” the outlet reported. “The nation’s third-largest school district wanted roughly 10,000 K-8 teachers and other staffers to return to school on Monday to get ready to welcome back roughly 70,000 students for part-time in-school classes starting Feb. 1. No return date has been set for high school students.”
“The teachers union, though, opposed the plan over concern for the health of its members and called on them to continue teaching from home in defiance of the district’s plan,” WGN continued.
The union is also fighting against the Biden administration, however, and the turning tide of public opinion. President Joe Biden has pledged to have all schools open within 100 days of his inauguration, and on Sunday, The New York Times reported that experts are suggesting a return to classrooms for all students in order to head off a simmering mental health crisis.