All eyes have been on Chicago as teachers and the mayor battled over the in-person versus remote learning, but now it looks like it has finally been settled.
After a week and a half of Chicago Public Schools students learning virtually, the Chicago Teachers Union has voted to accept a safety agreement with the district and end their dispute with Mayor Lori Lightfoot during the recent surge in Omicron COVID-19 cases, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The teachers union barely voted to accept the agreement with only 55.5% voting in favor of the agreement. It was enough as students returned to in-person learning at schools across the Chicago area.
This comes days after the COVID-19 testing debacle that saw thousands of CPS students and staff take tests that were deemed “invalid” due to not reaching labs in time. Within that time, Mayor Lightfoot also tested positive for COVID-19 as she pushed for students to return to school. Ironic.
From the Chicago Sun-Times:
At a House of Delegates meeting Wednesday evening, CTU leaders presented the deal to its 600 school representatives as “more than nothing, but less than what we wanted.” The virtual call featured teachers upset with union officials, at times yelling at them, for reaching an agreement — and selling it to their members — that they felt was insufficient to their safety demands. CTU President Jesse Sharkey redirected the blame at Lightfoot, who refused to budge on some of the union’s key requests, such as testing and mechanisms to pause in-person school during a surge.
“This vote is a clear show of dissatisfaction with the boss,” Sharkey said in a statement. “It’s outrageous that teachers, school nurses, counselors and more had to endure a week of being locked out by the mayor just to get a commitment from her bargaining team to provide every student with an N95 mask in a pandemic.
“Put bluntly, we have a boss who does not know how to negotiate, does not know how to hear real concerns and is not willing to respect our rank and file enough to listen to us when we tell her we need more protection.”
Sharkey urged members to stay united and not let their disagreements the past week fracture the union’s solidarity moving forward.
Mayor Lightfoot and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez were big mad when the teachers union voted to “virtually walk out” and end in-person classes. But they are now “please we have to come to an agreement that guarantees predictability and stability for the rest of the school year,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Whatever the case, the priority should be the safety of students and faculty. Whether that’s teaching virtually or in-person, the focus should be minimizing the amount of COVID-19 cases during this recent surge in Chicago and across the country. Whatever keeps those two groups safe and healthy.
The teachers union advocated working remotely until Jan. 18 or until coronavirus cases decreased below a specific threshold. They also wanted the district to require negative tests for students and faculty before in-person learning returned unless a parent objected. But the district did not agree.
More from the Chicago Sun-Times:
But officials did agree to increase testing at all schools to at least 10% of their student population. And the district committed to establishing phone banks where staff would help call parents and solicit verbal consent for testing.
When it came to individual school closures, CPS compromised with the CTU and agreed to shut down a building for at least five days if 30% or more of its teachers are absent for two consecutive days because of positive cases or quarantines, and if substitutes can’t get the absences under 25%. A school would also close if 40% of its students were quarantining.
Whether the missed days will be made up at the end of the year has yet to be determined — meaning CTU members don’t know if they’ll be paid for the missed days or not.
Yikes, that is for sure going to cause a stir between the teachers union and the district. Not paying teachers? No way the union is going to go for that.
But, as students returned to school, there were mixed emotions by both students and parents, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Deservedly so, who’s to say returning to school was the correct choice? Who’s to say working virtually was more effective?