A labor standoff between Chicago educators and Mayor Lori Lightfoot showed no signs of abating over the weekend, as the mayor swiftly rejected a proposal by the teachers’ union to ramp up coronavirus testing and return to in-person instruction on Jan. 18.
“The best, safest place for kids to be is in school,” Ms. Lightfoot and Pedro Martinez, the Chicago Public Schools chief executive, said in a joint statement on Saturday. “Students need to be back in person as soon as possible. That’s what parents want. That’s what the science supports. We will not relent.”
Ms. Lightfoot’s and Mr. Martinez’s sharp retort, which also accused labor leaders of “not listening,” came minutes after the Chicago Teachers Union announced a proposal for a return to classrooms that it framed as a compromise. The union dropped its demand that all students produce negative tests before coming back into class. Instead, it stated that teachers were open to returning to school buildings beginning Monday, although not for in-person instruction.
“This represents a change in our position,” Jesse Sharkey, the union president, said at a news conference on Saturday. “We’re appealing to the public — and to the mayor to find in her heart to make the compromise to reopen the schools.”
Hundreds of thousands of students in the nation’s third-largest school district missed three days of class last week after members of the Chicago Teachers Union voted to stop reporting to work amid concerns over the rapidly spreading Omicron variant.
School district officials insist that classrooms are safe and have declined to allow online instruction to be offered, as suggested by the union. Ms. Lightfoot has accused the union of inconveniencing families and affecting the academic and socio-economic progress of children.
American school districts are continuing to move forward with in-person instruction. This is what the Biden administration has encouraged, even though Omicron has shattered local case records and national records. Some large school districts in the United States, including Milwaukee and Cleveland, have moved their classes online. However, the dispute in Chicago has been noted for its bitterness and the day-to-day uncertainty that parents, teachers, and students face.
According to the plan that the union presented on Saturday, Chicago teachers would distribute equipment and materials for online instruction. They would also help parents sign up for virus testing Monday and Tuesday. Then, they would teach students remotely for the remainder of next week.
The union had already stated that members would return to school on Jan. 18, following Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This date did not change under the new proposal. Ms. Lightfoot strongly opposed this move by the union, which also pushed for all children to be enrolled in Covid-19 screening unless their parents opt them out. Students are currently tested by the schools only if their parents consent.
“The mayor can’t be, like, a hard no and morally opposed to widespread testing,” Mr. Sharkey said, “and also be a hard no and be morally opposed to any short-term period of remote.”
Source: NY Times