Polling memo shows overwhelming concern about reopening, as evidence grows of school transmissions in Illinois and across nation. Click this link to watch today’s CTU/SEIU press conference.

CHICAGO, Nov. 9, 2020—Chicago voters remain deeply concerned about the prospect of students and school communities becoming sites for spread of the coronavirus, according to a poll of parents and other likely 2023 voters conducted just before Election Day. The solution, say Chicagoans, is to focus on improving remote learning until the virus is under control.

The full CTU polling memo can be read at this link.

While Mayor Lori Lightfoot and her handpicked Chicago Board of Education have continued to hint at reopening schools as early as this month, parents and voters are making the right call, CTU rank-and-file school nurse Dennis Kosuth said.

“CPS has yet to lay out safety guarantees for school nurses — or even guarantee that there will be a health professional at every school while we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Kosuth said. “CPS continues to assert that schools are not super-spreaders, but I would say the data is not clear on that. And the number of cases and the positivity rate today are just too high to make it safe, especially with no enforceable safety protocols in place.”

More than 100 district-run schools — about a fifth of non-charter CPS schools — have reported positive COVID-19 cases since the school year began, including over a dozen schools CPS reported to the Union last week. One teacher died in October, and hundreds of other workers have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19 since CPS forced school clerks, technology coordinators and other workers back into buildings on August 26.

“Our workers are being asked to put our lives on the line but have no seat at the table to collaborate on how best to keep our school communities safe,” SEIU Local 73 Executive Vice President Science Meles said. “Workers are angry at the lack of information from CPS, even while the district is asking them to do home visits, temperature checks and more today with no training and no support.”

Local 73 represents overwhelmingly Black and Brown workers who include school security officers and special education classroom assistants, or SECAs.

Since the operation of CPS moved to remote learning on March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Union has repeatedly requested CPS to bargain over how to best deliver remote instruction, and the conditions under which it will be safe to resume in-person instruction.

While CPS has met with the Union consistently, we have reached agreements on virtually nothing. CPS has refused to acknowledge its legal bargaining obligations, and has instead provided perfunctory notice to CTU of the decisions it makes and unilaterally implements, including those concerning mandatory subjects of bargaining.

On October 2, an arbitrator ruled CPS buildings unsafe and authorized staff like school clerks to do their work remotely as they had for months. But CPS has refused to implement that binding ruling and the Union has filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint with the Labor Board to seek enforcement. The full arbitrator’s opinion is expected later this week.

This weekend, the CTU invoked mediation, which helped secure an agreement between the CTU and CPS during the October 2019 strike. As of Monday afternoon, CPS and the mayor continue to refuse to bargain with the CTU and SEIU Local 73 on enforceable safety standards in school buildings, or allow the CTU to exercise its contractual right to inspect CPS ventilation repairs.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.