Chicago Teachers Union Votes to Refuse Return to In-Person Instruction

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CTU announced that “in an unprecedented remote electronic vote, 71 percent” of its members voted to continue remote instruction on Monday.

“With this vote, rank-and-file educators will continue teaching remotely, and safely, as they have been doing for months,” CTU stated.

According to the Chicago Sun Times, city officials said recently they would consider a refusal to return to in-person instruction as a strike. Given the vote results to defy the order, however, they indicated they will delay the start of in-school learning until Wednesday “to ensure we have the time needed to resolve our discussions without risking disruption to student learning.”

The union, however, said it made no such agreement with CPS:

A message from Chicago Public Schools this afternoon, claiming that “we have agreed to a request from CTU leadership to push back the return of K-8 teachers and staff to Wednesday, Jan. 27,” and seeking to sow dissent and disrupt collective Union action, is inaccurate.

CPS unilaterally made the decision to move the return date for K-8 teachers back to Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021. The Union currently has no agreement with the district on any terms.

“The overwhelming majority of our members have chosen safety, unity and solidarity, and an agreement is within reach, but we need a willing partner,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “Emails like that don’t help.”

“Our collective power is our greatest strength,” Sharkey added, “and this vote cements our intention to continue to stand together in unity to land an agreement that protects educators, students and all of our CPS families.”

The union’s statement insisted that Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the school district make “substantive changes in remote learning to adequately provide for the clear majority of our students.”

“We need to frontload the needs of our Black and Brown children, because our district has failed them for far too long,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said. “From 50 school closings, to only four school libraries on the West Side, to the loss of Black educators, to underfunded and under resourced bilingual education…our district has failed them at every turn.”

The Sun Times report noted the strategy of union bosses has been “to back CPS officials into a corner in negotiations by forcing the district to address teachers’ concerns immediately, delay its reopening plan or risk halting all classes.”

Half of all CPS teachers who were ordered to return to in-person instruction did not show up January 4.

CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson said the teachers were “pressured” to stay out by the union.

On January 10, the union announced a mobilization effort by “parents, neighborhood residents,” and teachers against what it called a “dangerous” plan to reopen CPS for in-person instruction.

The union said “over 50 Chicago neighborhoods” are showing “double digit positivity” for the COVID-19 virus, with teachers reporting “serious safety failures at schools.”

Additionally, CTU stated, “Black and Brown parents continue to reject in-person learning.”

Jackson announced, nevertheless, that teachers who failed to show up for work would not be paid.

“We know that a small portion of staff members may choose not to return,” she said, according to NBC5 Chicago. “Those individuals will be deemed absent without leave, and they will not be eligible for pay going forward.”

“We believe we’ve done every single thing within our power to ensure a safe return to school in this situation,” she added.

CPS officials noted the school board has invested $100 million in virus-related safety, including PPE, air purifiers, and additional custodial staff.

In December, Local 1 of the CTU deleted its tweet that stated, “The push to reopen schools is rooted in sexism, racism and misogyny.”

Crain’s Chicago Business reported Friday the Biden administration’s goal of reopening the nation’s public schools for in-person learning “risks reigniting union tension” with a solid portion of the Democrat Party base.

According to the report, about 43 percent of students in the U.S. are learning remotely, and more than one-third have not been in school since the pandemic began.

A report released in December by the Association of Christian Schools International, however, showed that 90 percent of Christian schools opened the 2020-2021 academic year with in-person instruction as planned, despite the pandemic.