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Chicago Teachers Union Refuses Plan to Reopen Schools

Chicago teachers strike in 2019 / Getty Images
• February 2, 2021 2:00 pm

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The Chicago Teachers Union thwarted Chicago Public Schools' plans to reopen classrooms for in-person learning on Monday.

This is the second consecutive week that Chicago teachers refused to return to the classroom, forcing the district to delay in-person education for more than 60,000 K-8 students until at least Thursday. Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union reached their first tentative agreement in eight months on Monday and now have two days to iron out a plan to reopen schools, according to a joint statement from Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D.).

The union has opposed every reopening proposal Chicago Public Schools has offered despite meeting with district and city officials more than 70 times since June.

Last week, the teachers' union refused to return to classrooms after 71 percent of its participating members voted to continue remote learning until they could reach an agreement on a reopening plan with Chicago Public Schools. The district threatened to lock teachers out of remote learning if they didn't return to the classroom but withdrew the threat on Monday after the Chicago Teachers Union planned a strike. The district narrowly avoided what would have been the union's second strike in less than 16 months.

In December, the Chicago Teachers Union sent the district a list of demands, which included prioritizing teachers for the coronavirus vaccine and allowing teachers with medically vulnerable family members to continue teaching from home. Teachers said they would return to school once the district can demonstrate that their demands have been met. Teachers are now listed among the essential workers slated to receive the coronavirus vaccine in Chicago, though it would take until at least mid-February for teachers to receive the vaccine.

The district has spent more than $100 million on masks, personal protective equipment, and other measures to meet the union's demands.

Despite evidence that remote learning disproportionately affects minority students' reading and math scores, the Chicago Teachers Union once tweeted that returning to in-person learning was racist, sexist, and misogynistic.

Many teachers' unions remain opposed to returning to classrooms despite research showing the transmission of coronavirus in schools is "extremely rare." Districts with strong teachers' unions are less likely to reopen schools for in-person learning, according to an October study.

Published under: Chicago, Teachers Unions