The Chicago Teachers Union is expected to vote on Tuesday about whether to defy orders from Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to return to in-person instruction. The union urged its members to complete a poll just after Christmas to “help guide the CTU’s response to CPS’s inadequate pandemic response,” and an overwhelming majority of members appear poised to take action to force remote learning.
One question in the poll asks,
If COVID continues to dangerously accelerate or should staffing levels in our schools drop to unsafe levels, would you support a… District-wide pause and temporary shift to remote learning?
The responses were a resounding yes. By the end of the meeting on the 28th, a staggering 91% of teachers said they would participate in a “remote-work action” after their winter break. Students returned to school today.
The poll also asked what measures teachers would be willing to take in order to force CPS to improve its Covid safety measures. One of the options was a “city-wide work stoppage.”
This response by the teachers union adds fuel to the fire of an already contentious situation between it and CPS. Earlier this year, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned the union that “enough is enough” and called for an immediate agreement that would send children back to school for in-person learning. Failure to reach an agreement with the union had already cost CPS schools a week of in-person learning. Lightfoot said that students were “suffering from failing grades, depression [and] isolation…and cannot afford to wait any longer.”
Lightfoot went on to say, “CPS had three weeks of successful implementation of these mitigation plans in our schools, that was until the CTU blew up and created chaos that we are now enduring.”
CPS reportedly spent over $100 million in mitigations to make their schools safer, including new ventilation systems and health screenings, advanced cleaning processes, and face coverings. In addition, Lightfoot claimed that over 80 meetings occurred to address union leadership’s concerns. While the two sides eventually reached an agreement, it appears that another gridlock is imminent.
Some critics have also pointed out that parents are basically powerless against the CPS and and Chicago Teachers Union. Corey DeAngelis, an education policy expert, argues that what is happening in Chicago highlights the need for parents to have the right to send their children to a school that will remain open:
If grocery store employees don’t return to work in person, families can take their money elsewhere. If public school employees don’t return to work in person families should be able to take their children’s education dollars elsewhere.
DeAngelis went on to say,
Education funding is meant for educating children – not for protecting a particular institution. We should fund students, not systems.
He argues that parents are primarily at the mercy of these teacher unions if their only viable option is sending their children to public schools. DeAngelis believes that directly funding students is a more viable option, with parents able to select the education provider of their choosing.
Recent data shows that public schools spend more per student on average than private schools. According to DeAngelis, CPS spends over $27,000 per student per year while average Chicago private school tuition is just $11,005 per year.
If the Chicago Teachers Union votes to take action and remote-learning is once again mandated, expect those public school per-student costs to rise even higher.