CHICAGO, Jan. 20, 2021—More than 80 percent of the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates — the Union’s 600-member governing body — voted to pass a resolution tonight authorizing all CTU members at CPS district schools to conduct remote work only, starting on January 25, 2021, or on whatever date Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s handpicked Chicago Board of Education requires educators teaching kindergarten through eighth grade to appear in person.
The resolution will now go to full rank-and-file membership for an electronic ballot vote on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“This is about a pandemic that has killed 400,000 Americans, and an overwhelming majority of our delegates are resolved to putting safety first and continuing to teach remotely,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “In the absence of an actual commitment on safety from CPS leadership, the best assurance we have for the safety of our students and school staff right now is to continue remote learning.”
“Our members are resolved to continue working, teaching their students and doing so safely,” President Sharkey added. “Only the mayor can force a strike, and if it comes to that, that’s her choice. We choose safety.”
COVID has now surfaced in over 50 schools since CPS began forcing pre-kindergarten teachers and special education cluster teachers back into school buildings on Jan. 4. Despite that, the mayor and CPS have refused to commit to basic safety measures such as providing clear procedures for closing a building if there is a school based outbreak, testing procedures or a meaningful health metric to determine when to move between in-person and remote learning.
CPS plans to force an additional 10,000 educators back into buildings on January 25 — the same day those workers become eligible to begin receiving a COVID vaccine as members of the 1B class of essential workers.
In Chicago — where Black and Brown communities continue to shoulder a disproportionate burden of disease and death from COVID — positivity rates remain in double digits, with roughly one in eight residents in many communities testing positive for COVID. While CPS has stalled on releasing student attendance numbers since pre-K and cluster students began returning on January 11, educators are reporting near-empty or totally empty classrooms even as CPS continues to insist that members teach from unsafe classrooms instead of the safety of their home workspaces.
Public opposition to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s dangerous reopening plan continues to grow. Forty-two out of 50 aldermen have now signed onto a letter urging Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to hold off on reopening schools until CPS and the CTU have bargained to agreement on a safe plan to return to school buildings. At the same time, a growing number community organizations and local school councils also have formally urged the mayor to hold off on reopening unsafe school buildings.
The Union will continue to bargain with the Board this week.