Five Cities Where Teachers Unions Are Keeping Schools Shut Down
A woman holds a sign during the Occupy City Hall Protest and Car Caravan hosted by Chicago Teachers Union in Chicago, Illinois, on August 3, 2020. - Teachers and activists hold car caravan all over the country on August 3, 2020 to demand adequate classroom safety measures as schools debate reopening.

Across the United States, primary and secondary schools are considering the return of in-person classes amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

According to data from Education Week, state governments are adopting a variety of policies on returning to school. Some states — including California, New Mexico, and Delaware ordered partial closures, while others such as Florida, Texas, and Iowa ordered all schools to open their doors. Most other states are encouraging local school districts to determine their own reopening policies.

As The Daily Wire previously reported, the American Academy of Pediatrics found that children represent between 0% and 0.2% of COVID-19 mortalities, with eighteen states reporting zero COVID-related child deaths between March and September of 2020. The CDC similarly revealed that children between 5 and 17 years of age experienced a mortality rate 16 times lower than that of adults between 18 and 29.

In spite of data indicating the relative safety of returning to in-person instruction, many schools across the nation remain closed for one predominant reason: teachers unions.

Here are five cities whose teachers unions are preventing a return to classroom learning.


Continuing its pattern of upending all of Chicago’s proposals to reopen schools, the Chicago Teachers Union is threatening a strike in response to the prospect of in-person instruction. 

On Monday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D-IL) suddenly backed down from her threat to bar Chicago Public School teachers from virtual learning. Virtual instruction will remain until at least Thursday so that negotiations can continue even though over 50 meetings between city officials and the union have already occurred.

“CPS is trying to move people back into school without being clear about their safety standards,” reads the union’s list of demands. “We don’t trust them.”

In the 2019-2020 school year, Chicago Public Schools enrolled over 350,000 students.

Los Angeles

As in Chicago, United Teachers Los Angeles is a major driving force behind continued school closures in the nation’s second-most populous city. In step with union demands, Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Austin Beutner announced on Monday that instruction would continue virtually until teachers receive vaccines.

Supt. Beutner also criticized the California state government’s policies on returning to classrooms, dubbing the COVID-19 threshold for reopening primary schools a “magic number.”

He announced that students will need to attend mandatory summer courses and a prolonged 2021-2022 academic year.

United Teachers Los Angeles gained national notoriety in July for a highly politicized list of reopening demands, which included defunding the police and a moratorium on charter schools.

“When politicians exhort educators and other workers to ‘reignite the economy,’ UTLA educators ask: who are you planning to use as kindling?” said the demands. “As it stands, the only people guaranteed to benefit from the premature physical reopening of schools amidst a rapidly accelerating pandemic are billionaires and the politicians they’ve purchased.”

Nearly 600,000 students attend Los Angeles Unified School District — nearly 82% of whom are black or Hispanic. 

Washington, D.C.

Ahead of Washington, D.C.’s scheduled return to classrooms on Tuesday, the city filed a court motion to stop the Washington Teachers’ Union “from engaging in a strike or work stoppage that would halt the District’s reopening of some schools for in-person learning.”

Though it instructed teachers to cooperate with the return to school, the union announced the possibility of a “secret ballot strike authorization vote this week.”

“Let’s be very clear: We are not trying to stand in the way of reopening,” American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a Washington Teachers’ Union statement. “We are mirroring the fear we’re hearing in communities and doing our best to work through that fear to make sure that when school buildings reopen, all school staff and students can be confident that the critical safeguards — a metric for closure, testing, ventilation, cleaning, PPE and accommodations — are in place, and funded, so that we can meet the needs of our students.”

In the 2018-2019 school year, over 51,000 students received instruction through DC Public Schools.

New York City

Most schools in New York City closed after COVID-19 cases began rising in November. As New York City’s Department of Education began taking steps to reopen middle and high schools, the city’s teachers union quickly voiced their opposition.

“The city is barely managing all the aspects of the current random testing program and tracing requirements,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew told the New York Post. “They are not prepared to handle any additional schools.” 

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio (D-NY) issued a budget proposal that would allocate $28.7 billion to the education system. He went on to state that the Biden administration’s promise to give the city $2 billion in federal relief dollars would be crucial in sending children back to classrooms.

The New York City Department of Education enrolls over 1.1 million students — 66% of whom are black or Hispanic.


Philadelphia public schools announced last week that it would attempt a hybrid learning model, which would feature both in-person and virtual instruction. However, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers immediately raised concerns.

“Resuming in-person learning opportunities is a crucial step to help restore a much-needed sense of familiarity, community and connectedness for students and families,” said School District of Philadelphia Supt. William Hite.

“PFT shares the District’s desire to return to school buildings — but it must be safe for students and staff,” said the union in a statement. “We know that students learn best in person. But community spread is very high, ventilation standards as outlined in our MOU have not yet been met, and the PFT believes that educators should be vaccinated before being asked to go into buildings.”

As of January 29, students will return to school in phases, beginning on February 22 with Pre-K through second-grade students. Even under the hybrid plan, students will attend school for two days per week and receive online instruction for three days.

The School District of Philadelphia educates over 200,000 students.

The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.

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