Chicago Public School District Blames Teachers' Union For Staff Absences

High school students in Chicago wait for the bus in March, 2020 / Getty Images
January 6, 2021

The Chicago Teachers Union is responsible for the failure of staff to return to in-person work, the Chicago School District says.

On Tuesday, the district announced that 40 percent of its preschool and special education teachers and staff had not shown up for work this week. The district's CEO Janice Jackson blamed the Chicago Teachers Union for allegedly pressuring staff not to return to school. Jackson said teachers who did not show up for work were told their absence was unexcused and could lead to disciplinary action, though she added that teachers would not lose their jobs.

Despite nearly 50 meetings with Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot (D.), the union has shot down every school reopening plan. At one point, the union decried reopening schools as sexist, racist, and misogynistic despite mounting evidence that school closures have exacerbated racial inequality.

The Chicago union's fight to keep school buildings closed drew increased criticism after a Chicago Teachers Union leader posted a photo of her vacation to the Caribbean while simultaneously claiming that in-person classrooms are unsafe.

The district is hopeful that more teachers will return to in-person work in the coming days. Classroom learning for preschool and special education students begins on Jan. 11, and the district plans to bring kindergarten through eighth-grade students to the classroom in February.