Above photo: Elementary 1 teacher Melissa Vozar sits outside of Suder Elementary in Chicago to teach a virtual class on Jan. 11, 2021. The Chicago Teachers Union said that its members voted to defy an order to return to the classroom before they are vaccinated against the coronavirus, setting up a showdown with district officials who have said such a move would amount to an illegal strike. Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times via AP.
Teachers vote to continue to teach safely and remotely.
Educators call on Mayor Lightfoot and CPS to adopt CDC health metric, agree to rigorous testing and allow educators to return as they’re vaccinated, among other concerns.
Chicago —In an unprecedented remote electronic vote, 71 percent of Chicago Teachers Union members have voted to continue teaching remotely starting Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. Eighty-six percent of rank-and-file members voted from Thursday, Jan. 21 through Saturday, Jan. 23.
With this vote, rank-and-file educators will continue teaching remotely, and safely, as they have been doing for months.
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.”
Only 19 percent of students eligible to return to pre-kindergarten and special education cluster classrooms returned on January 11. While the district has so far not released demographic data for those students, the Board of Education has shared in bargaining that the majority of students returning to classrooms are from neighborhoods that include Lincoln Park and the far Northwest Side.
The district insists on returning at least 80 percent of staff to unsafe school buildings, even as less than 20 percent of eligible students have returned so far. The majority of families, including the majority of Black and Brown families that CPS serves, continue to suffer through the pandemic and are in need of substantial supports.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS must 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.
“CPS can’t continue failing Black and Brown children, and families, in a pandemic.”
The Union continues to demand a responsible health metric built on CDC guidelines, committees to enforce safety standards, voluntary staff return as workers can access vaccines, and rigorous testing for students and staff to mitigate any possible outbreaks.
Negotiations with the Board resume this afternoon.