The Chicago Teachers Union is stonewalling Chicago Public Schools’s return to in-person instruction with a series of charges alleging that CPS is “illegally refusing to bargain over reopening and safety protocols” and “threatening employees with loss of pay or discipline for working from home,” even though private schools around the city have already reopened.
While many people including President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have advocated for schools to reopen based on the evidence of extremely small coronavirus transmission rates among young people, teachers’ unions around the nation have delayed the process with high and often unreasonable demands that defy the science demonstrating in-person learning can be safe.
According to the Chicago Tribune, CPS plans to allow the return of certain “prekindergarten and some special education students” to in-person learning and has offered parents the ability “to decide by Wednesday between returning to schools and continuing with remote learning.”
While district spokeswoman Emily Bolton noted many of the private schools in the area have safely returned to in-person learning and that the district wants to work with the union to create a safe re-opening plan, the CTU continues to delay their return with demands.
“While the district is doing everything in its power to plan for all possible scenarios, the CTU refuses to even discuss a return to in-person learning, even as hundreds of private schools in Chicago are open,” Bolton said. “We don’t know what the health situation will be in a couple of weeks’ time, but it would be irresponsible not to plan ahead while thousands of students miss out on valuable learning.”
In their most recent charges, the union is holding out for “its own certified industrial hygienists to inspect school air quality.” The union is also demanding that the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board “prevent CPS from resuming in-person instruction ‘until the district has bargained in good faith.'”
The CPS has agreed to publish ventilation reports produced by “state-certified environmental hygienists” before the return to in-person learning, “but maintains the union isn’t entitled by contract or law to conduct their own inspection.”
“We are disheartened that CTU continues to obstruct and mislead the public about the necessary planning measures needed to prepare for a potential return to safe in-person learning,” Bolton said, claiming that the district continues to negotiate with the union “in the hopes they engage as productive partners and help us lift up the students and families who need our collective support.”
Despite the union’s claims that “we don’t want to die doing our jobs, and we don’t want to be vectors for spreading illness or death to our students and their families,” studies show that school reopenings are better for learning and the economy and that transmission rates among children tend to be extremely low or even nonexistent.
A new study highlighted in a recent Wall Street Journal article shows that “Sweden never shut its schools, and teachers there have had the same fatality rate during this pandemic as IT technicians, who can often work from home.” The study also notes that there is a “low COVID-19 mortality risk of children’s and adolescents’ teachers” and that “teachers do not appear to be a high-risk group in Sweden may contribute one more piece of evidence to the ongoing discussion.”
A similar campaign occurred with Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia when the Fairfax Education Association asked for schools to remain closed until 2021.
“Since none of the requirements for safe return are likely to be met in the foreseeable future of the 2020-21 school year, we reiterate: Keep Fairfax County Public Schools Virtual for the 2020-21 school year,” the union wrote.
The union, instead of working with the school to reopen, asked parents to “sign a petition demanding all-virtual education until a ‘scientifically proven vaccine or highly effective treatment’ is available” and claimed that “the metric for Safe Reopening should be 14 days of zero community spread.”