A very powerful and influential teachers union in Chicago is giving significant push back on a target day that was recently announced by the public school system to get in-person classes going again for high school students, claiming that the mayor and the school board are trying to force them into a start date.
Chicago Public Schools want to see students return to the classroom at the start of the fourth quarter of the year, on April 19. But the Chicago Teachers Union claims that as of now, there’s no deal yet and stated that this announcement was made prematurely.
“Let me be clear: We have no agreement on returning to in-person learning in high schools on any date, nor will there be an agreement until we know our school buildings can reopen safely,” CTU president Jesse Sharkey made clear in a written statement released on Tuesday. “The CPS email is unfortunately more unilateralism from the mayor’s handpicked Board of Education – a way to publicly roll out a boilerplate plan created behind closed doors with no educator support, stakeholder engagement, parent input or student agency.”
The union added that Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS “cannot set a date for return, then inevitably blame educators if any problems meeting that deadline arise. Instead, the district must work with parents, students, educators and all stakeholders in crafting a safe plan for high school return to in-person instruction. The mayor and CPS cannot publicly distort the state of our talks while also stonewalling in providing critical data that must guide any agreement.”
The tug-of-war between Chicago school officials and unions isn’t a one-off. Similar struggles are playing out across several cities in the United States, with parents pushing to return to in-school learning and influential teachers unions blocking the effort and often delaying reopenings. Many teachers in big cities like Chicago say they are reluctant to go back to their classrooms amid the pandemic and before everyone is vaccinated. They have pushed back on scientific research that shows in-person instruction can be done safely if precautions are taken.
Tuesday’s announcement by CPS on the tentative return date for high schools was made three days before the deadline for high school parents to choose between in-person or remote learning.
Look, it’s pretty obvious at this point that all the teachers unions want to use the COVID-19 crisis as a means of holding kids hostage in exchange for leverage in their bargaining. These individuals have made it clear the safety, health, and education of children is not even close to being a top priority for them.
They are playing politics with children’s lives. That’s unacceptable.