Chicago Teachers Union Says Reopening Schools Is Racist

Statement ignores evidence that school closures disproportionately harm black and Latino students

A school sign in Chicago / Getty Images
December 7, 2020

In a since-deleted tweet, the Chicago Teachers Union decried reopening schools as sexist, racist, and misogynistic—despite mounting evidence that school closures have exacerbated racial inequality.

The union, which represents over 25,000 Illinois teachers, faced backlash for tweeting that the "push to reopen schools is rooted in sexism, racism, and misogyny." Many pointed out that COVID-19 school closures have disproportionately harmed minority students and that public health experts tend to support reopening schools.

The data bear out both points. A study of 4.4 million students found that test scores of black, Hispanic, and poor children took the biggest hit from school closures. Math scores of vulnerable students dropped up to 10 percentage points from last year. Minority parents in California are suing the state over its mandatory school lockdowns, which the plaintiffs claim have left their children behind. Furthermore, a large study in October found that schools aren't driving infections.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has come out in favor of reopening schools. During an ABC interview, he said that the default position should be to "keep the children in school or to get them back to school."

"If you look at the data, the spread among children and from children is not really big at all," Fauci noted.

Following intense online backlash, the Chicago Teachers Union issued an apology for its original statement.

"Fair enough. Complex issue. Requires nuance," the union wrote in a follow-up tweet. "And much more discussion. Most important, the people the decision affects deserve more. So we'll continue give [sic] them that. Appreciate the feedback of those truly in the struggle."

However, the union issued another bold statement shortly after its apology.

"We hit all the nerves today," the union tweeted. "Imagine if that passion had be there [sic] long before COVID-19. Perhaps Black and Brown families wouldn't be so mistrustful of a system—and a society—that doesn't value their lives."

The Chicago Teachers Union did not respond to requests for comment.