Talks between Chicago school leaders and the teachers’ union resume Sunday amid a standoff over remote learning and other COVID-19 safety measures that canceled three days of classes and loomed over the start of another week in the nation’s third-largest district.
Disputed issues included testing and metrics to close schools. The Chicago Teachers Union wants the option to revert to districtwide remote instruction, and most members have refused to teach in-person until there’s an agreement, or the latest COVID-19 spike subsides. But Chicago leaders reject districtwide remote learning, saying it’s detrimental and schools are safe. Instead, Chicago opted to cancel classes as a whole two days after students returned from winter break.
Chicago Public Schools face the same pandemic issues as other districts nationwide, with more reverting to remote learning as infections soar and staff members are sidelined. But the situation in union-friendly Chicago has been amplified in a labor dispute that’s familiar to families in the mostly low-income Black and Latino district who have seen disruptions during a similar safety protocol fight last year, a 2019 strike and a one-day work stoppage in 2016.
“What the teachers’ union did was an illegal walkout. They abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press.” “We are working diligently every singe day at the bargaining table to narrow the differences and get a deal done.”
Her statements weren’t as dismissive as a day earlier when shortly after the union made its latest offer public, she said, “CTU leadership, you’re not listening” and vowed not to “relent.” Both sides have filed complaints to a state labor board.
Union leaders accused Lightfoot of bullying, saying they agree that in-person instruction is better, but the pandemic is forcing difficult decisions. Attendance was down ahead of the cancelations due students and teachers in isolation from possible exposure to the virus and families opting to keep children home voluntarily.