This leads to the obvious conundrum: Many teachers’ unions and their members simply fear returning, regardless of the evidence. The data and evidence simply don’t override their innate emotional concerns. As such, they are now at loggerheads with school districts (many run by Democrats too) and parents across the nation.
In Chicago, the city and its teachers’ union have been talking past each other for months. The union has produced a moving target for the safe opening of schools. The newest demand was vaccination for all teachers, during a period of time in which even health-care workers and the elderly cannot find the vaccine. The school district has been planning for pre-K and special-education programs to resume in-person learning first, followed by students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and a month later with sixth through eighth grades. There has not been any indication of when high schools will reopen. When schools were to be opened the first week of January, half of the city’s teachers refused to report to work. The union threatened an all-out strike (which would be, in the current setting, illegal under state law) if the entire district’s teachers were ordered to return without appropriate reforms.
Finally this week, 68 percent of the union’s members voted to approve the school reopening plan. This plan puts teachers on the fast track to vaccines, but otherwise the union was forced to mostly accept the school district’s safety plans. One of the union’s major requests, improved ventilation, has been rejected not only by city leaders, but by the Biden administration itself. Even still, union members remain disgruntled. “Let me be clear. This plan is not what any of us deserve. Not us. Not our students. Not their families. The fact that CPS could not delay reopening a few short weeks to ramp up vaccinations and preparations in schools is a disgrace,” union president Jesse Sharkey wrote.