Chicago students will be returning to classes on January 12 after losing five days of classes thanks to a strike by the Chicago Teachers Union. The union forced more COVID-19 tests but damaged student education for the third time in 27 months.
The governing body of the Chicago Teachers Union voted 389 to 226 to return to the classroom, ending a strike over COVID-19 tests that cost students five days of classes and was the union’s third work stoppage in 27 months.
Chicago Public Schools agreed that all schools would begin testing at least 10% of their student population, but parents must allow their children to take the testing program. CTU wanted all students to be tested unless parents chose to remove them from the program. The district declined and gave parents control over their children’s tests.
The district aims to have 100% of students tested and vaccinated by February 1.
Additionally, the two parties agreed on a metric based on the absences of staff and students in quarantine that would cause an individual school to switch to distance learning.
Parents were upset with CTU for pushing students out of class and organized against the work stoppage. A group of parents sued and tried to end the allegedly illegal work stoppage.
“The Catholic school is open down the street for me and the parking lots are full, so it doesn’t make sense that our public schools are closed,” said Sarah Dinge, a mother of four CPS students.
“In my schools, most of the teachers are vaccinated, my children are vaccinated and the schools follow masking and distancing protocols so I feel safe sending my children to school,” she said. “I’m very upset about the current situation with the Chicago Teachers Union.”
CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates accused the union as a victim in the dispute and criticized the indignant parents over the work stoppage.
“This is the second January in a row that we have, frankly, been held hostage in hostage negotiations,” she said. “What the parents don’t know is that without the workers, the schoolworkers, there is nothing in our house.”
CPS CEO Pedro Martinez thanked the 16% of teachers who reported in the buildings on Jan. 10, allowing over 150 schools to offer some personal activities.
Teacher Joe Ocol said students should not be used as pawns by union leaders with political agendas intent on power games.
“Our students lose every day they go on strike. You have already lost more than a year of learning. And now another loss is so sad for her, ”he said.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot evaded the question of which side “won” the stalemate, but said she was relieved that the children were going back to school.
“I hope this is the end, at least for this school year,” said Lightfoot, referring to CTU’s years of industrial action.
CTU forced work stoppages three times in 27 months, including 11 class days in 2019. Previously, CTU measures cost students one day in 2016 and seven days in 2012.
But Lightfoot could lapse into wishful thinking, especially if a proposal to anchor union powers in the Illinois Constitution is passed in November.
Amendment 1 gives union bosses permanent powers that could override state laws and constitutional protection that has no other particular interest. Legislators could never restrict the powers of the trade unions or repeal Amendment 1, even in a unanimous vote.
Before Illinois voters decide on November 8 whether Illinois government unions need more power, they should examine how CTU has used its power.