Teachers seen as supporting safety needs of students, families, as virus ravages Chicago’s Black and Latinx neighborhoods.
CHICAGO, August 13, 2020—On Thursday, the Chicago Teacher Union released findings from an eye-popping Lake Research poll that found that Black and Latinx families are overwhelmingly opposed to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to re-open city schools to in-person learning, and support CTU’s push for remote learning. This poll comes on heels of a month-long campaign and nationwide August 3rd Day of Resistance, sponsored by the CTU.
During the campaign, rank and file members, parents and their grassroots allies raised their collective voices to push back against the misguided attempt to re-open schools without a transparent, fully funded, scientific-based, and racially just plan.
According to the poll, African American voters were among the most opposed to in-person learning (61%), but opposition to re-opening the schools for in-person education is the consensus position, as a majority of Latinx voters (52% oppose to 35% support), and nearly half of whites (49% oppose to 37% support) agree. These results are in direct contrast to Lightfoot’s dangerous and non-science based in-person hybrid plan.
“Our public school families have been resounding in their opposition to the mayor’s plans to re-open schools to in-person learning this fall—at the same time that our union has fought to anchor our safety concerns in the needs of the district’s overwhelmingly Black and Latinx families,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “We know the incidence of the virus is highest in the same Chicago neighborhoods that look to CPS to educate their children—the very same communities hammered disproportionately by this virus. Voters have wisely chosen the remote learning path that the CTU and our allies have advocated, and put safety first for Chicago’s hard-hit Black and Brown working-class neighborhoods.”
Since the poll was conducted, over 2,000 students, teachers and school staff across five US states have been placed in quarantine after hundreds of COVID-19 cases emerged because of irresponsible in-person school re-opening.
The poll was designed and administered for the CTU by Lake Research Partners, which conducted the poll by phone using live, professional interviewers over a representative mix of landlines and cells, as well as online using text-to-online methodology. The survey reached 600 likely 2023 municipal voters in the City of Chicago between July 30 – August 4, 2020. The margin of error for the full sample is +/-4.0%.
Key findings are summarized below.
A majority of voters (54%) opposes re-opening the schools for in-person learning at the end of the summer, versus just 29% who support it. Another one-in-six voters (17%) is currently undecided. African American voters are among the most opposed to in-person learning (61%), but opposition to re-opening the schools for in-person learning is the consensus position, as a majority of Latinx voters (52% oppose to 35% support), and nearly half of whites (49% oppose to 37% support) agree.
Chicagoans are dissatisfied with the Mayor’s approach to this issue. Fully 50% of voters rate the job Lightfoot is doing on her handling of re-opening Chicago public schools this fall as “just fair” or “poor” compared to just 33% who believe she is doing an “excellent” or “good” job on this front.
In comparison, Chicago Public School teachers remain exceedingly popular and trusted voice in this debate, with 69% of Chicago voters rating them favorably compared to just 18% who rate teachers unfavorably.
Voters are negative in their outlook on the direction of the city, with just 30% believing the city is headed in the right direction, and nearly half (48%) believing the city is pretty seriously off on the wrong track. Voters are even more pessimistic when it comes to the direction of Chicago Public Schools, with just 19% saying the schools are headed in the right direction compared to a 55% majority who believe the schools are pretty seriously off on the wrong track.
Voters are highly concerned with the health and safety of students, teachers, and school staff upon returning to in-person classes Fully 78% rate this between an “8-10” on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means it is not a concern at all and 10 means it is a major concern, including 64% who rate it a “10”, the highest expression of concern available offered.
The data contains one further warning sign for any future efforts to rush in-person learning before safety standards for controlling the virus can be assured. While voters are concerned about the health and safety of students, teachers, and support staff, they are even more concerned about the health and safety of all Chicagoans, should students and school communities become super-spreaders of the coronavirus. Another 78% of voters rate this possibility between an “8-10” on the same 0-10 scale, including 65% who rate it a “10”, or major concern.
As with opposition to the push to re-open schools for in-person learning, concerns about the health and safety of students, teachers, support staff—and all Chicagoans—are even more pronounced among voters of color. Among African American voters, 71% rate the health and safety of school communities a major concern and 74% rate the health and safety of all Chicagoans a major concern. Among Latinx voters, 67% rate both scenarios major concerns. Among whites, slightly smaller majorities rate each scenario as major concerns: 57% in the case of school communities and 59% in the case of the city as a whole.
Finally, voters respond with resounding support for every component of the CTU plan for Chicago public schools during the pandemic, but are particularly supportive of CPS providing internet access and a laptop or tablet to all students (84% support overall, 75% strong support), increasing the number of teacher assistants available during remote learning to support student and family learning needs (82% support, 72% strong support), and providing learning opportunities to parents and caregivers on how to assist students with remote learning, offered at several different times to reach as many people as possible (82% support, 67% strong support).
In addition, Chicago voters support CPS providing one full-time nurse and one social worker to each school to monitor and support students and staff’s physical and mental health, upon the eventual transition to in-person learning (86% support, 72% strong support).