It looked yesterday like Mayor Lori Lightfoot was finally ready to play hardball with the teacher’s union but today brought another delay in the start of classes after the threat of a strike from the union.
Schools had been slated to reopen for more than 60,000 kindergarten through eighth grade students Monday, joining about 6,500 preschool and special education students who started attending in-person on Jan. 11.
But Chicago Public Schools pulled the plug late Sunday when it became increasingly clear teachers would continue to refuse to return en masse, despite the hard line Lightfoot and district CEO Janice Jackson have been toeing for weeks, threatening to lock educators out of their remote teaching platforms if they won’t show up in person.
“Let me be very clear: Our schools are safe. We’ve invested over $100 million dollars in ventilation, other safety protocols, making sure that we have masks, safety health screening, temperature checks — all the things that you would expect that the CDC guidance has told us that we know makes sense to mitigate any issues in schools. We’ve looked at and followed every study across the globe, including here in Chicago, by our local experts,” Lightfoot said to MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski…
If “mass lockouts” happen Monday, according to a Chicago Teachers Union bulletin sent to members late Sunday, the union will call a meeting of its House of Delegates, which “must officially set a date for a strike to begin.”
Teachers did not show up for work today but Lightfoot did not pull the plug on their remote learning access, probably because of the threat. This fits the pattern of talking tough and then walking backwards that Mayor Lightfoot has established in the past week.
Last week teachers in Chicago were supposed to return to schools to prepare classrooms for in-class teaching that would start today. The teacher’s union held a vote and the majority of teachers refused to return to classrooms, saying they were not striking but wanted to continue remote learning until every teacher had been vaccinated.
Mayor Lightfoot warned last week that if teachers did not show up to classrooms today, their access to remoted learning portals would be cut off and they would be considered AWOL. As of yesterday, Lightfoot was still sounding tough and urging the union to make a deal to come back to work:
We have an obligation to give every Chicago parent the ability to choose the learning option that works best for their child.
We’ve made significant progress in talks with CTU leadership in recent days on a safe return to in-person learning. pic.twitter.com/tIe3Plv8zr
— Mayor Lori Lightfoot (@chicagosmayor) February 1, 2021
The back and forth between CPS and the teacher’s union continued yesterday on social media:
Fact check: Our bargaining team was told by CTU leadership that they were unavailable to meet until they could develop a response to our most recent offer. Our team has been standing by all day. https://t.co/h1NzrW3Fkl
— Chicago Public Schools (@ChiPubSchools) January 31, 2021
The teacher’s unions have repeatedly hammered on this misused statistic to claim parents don’t want to send their kids back to school:
If remote learning is failing so many, why have Chicago's public school parents chosen for more than 80% of eligible students to continue remote learning?
And why, amidst all the data and numbers that are mentioned, this one never discussed? Parents and families have spoken.
— ChicagoTeachersUnion (@CTULocal1) January 31, 2021
Here’s what that claim is about. Last month pre-kindergarten and special needs students were asked to return to school along with the teachers for those classes. Only 19% of those students did return. That’s where the factoid above comes from. However, what the union doesn’t say is that this was only a small segment of the school population. A much larger percentage of students were set to return to classes today and among that group nearly 40% of parents said they intended to have their kids return. So the demand for in-class teachers is double what the union is claiming.
The unions are largely winning the battle in the media despite the fact that the CDC declared last week that in class learning does not lead to a significant increase in the spread of COVID. It seems the need to heed the experts and the best science doesn’t apply to left-leaning union members.
Now we’re set up for another standoff tomorrow. Will teachers return? Will Lightfoot cut off remote learning and declare them AWOL if they don’t? And if she does finally drop the hammer, will the union strike? We’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see if Mayor Lightfoot is tired of backpedaling.