Chicago: Teachers Won’t Come Back

 

Preschool teacher Kirstin Roberts teaches students outside Brentano Elementary Math & Science Academy since it isn’t “safe” inside.
As a former employee of CPS (Chicago Public Schools, for the uninitiated), I have been watching as the saga of the “reopening of schools” has been unfolding here. I still receive all the CPS emails, as well as those from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). The competing narratives about going back to work have been fascinating and I thought I’d do a little write-up here. Feel free to chime in if you’ve been following and have thoughts about how this is going down…

CPS planned on a hybrid re-opening scheme this fall but the CTU protested that it wasn’t safe so CPS went remote. Throughout that time, CPS provided updates about the HEPA filters they installed in the schools, cleaning procedures, the polling from the community who wanted to return to in-person teaching, etc. All this led to January’s phased re-opening (note: the CTU did not endorse this plan)- on January 4, 5,800 teachers were meant to return to prep for the January 11 start date for pre-kindergarten age children and only 49.7% came back. Some taught remotely, some taught even outside the building in 27°F weather (see the photo above). And the CTU said that teachers who did not want to return had the Union’s full support. CPS and the city said they would face “progressive discipline”- i.e., risk being fired.

Things have only escalated since then. While teachers have trickled back to avoid losing their jobs, the CTU has ramped up its rhetoric about the schools being unsafe for learning. What are their reasons? The Chicago Department of Public Health gave the all-clear to reopen. They cited a study of the city’s Catholic schools’ low rate of transmission. But here is the rub:

“But for teachers afraid of becoming severely ill or even dying from the virus, the study has a glaring problem: Mainly that local, non-public schools studied by the health department have little to nothing in common with Chicago’s public schools, they said…The study monitored around 20,000 students enrolled in in-person learning at local Catholic schools. The students included in the health department’s study are 44 percent white, 20 percent Black and 29 percent Hispanic. CPS schools are 11 percent white, 36 percent Black and 47 percent Hispanic.”

On January 24, 10,000 teachers for kindergarten- 8th grade were supposed to report to their classrooms. However, the CTU held a vote on Sunday in which 71% of members voted to continue teaching remotely. This comes in direct defiance of the district’s orders to return to work. The CTU, adding fuel to the fire, has stated that if the teachers are locked out of their classrooms (teachers would be at home but they would be locked out of their school Google email accounts and all access to CPS channels would be frozen), they will strike. CPS has said that this strike would be illegal because it breaks the terms of their bargaining agreement. February 1 should be the first day of school for 71,000 children who have pledged to return to in-person schooling and the situation is anything but stable for them.

In a series of bumbling Covid platitudes, Biden gave his take to the delight of the CTU: “It’s not so much about the idea of teachers aren’t going to work. The teachers I know, they want to work…They just want to work in a safe environment and…as safe as we can rationally make it. And we can do that…”

The outlook here is grim and without question, the children and their families are paying a heavy price for this. Many children will never be able to recuperate the time they have lost in the classrooms. It’s a disaster on every possible level. But I’ll leave it here for now.

Published in Education
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  1. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Children don’t pay the teachers’ salaries, or Union dues. I hope the school district calls their bluff and fires all the teachers that are “afraid” to teach their students. And I hope the district offers bonuses to those teachers who do come and teach in person.

    • #1
  2. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    It’s all about the children.

    Of course.

    • #2
  3. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Children don’t pay the teachers’ salaries, or Union dues. I hope the school district calls their bluff and fires all the teachers that are “afraid” to teach their students. And I hope the district offers bonuses to those teachers who do come and teach in person.

    I hope they do too. It’s long past time to fire these teachers who refuse to come back despite every measure that has been taken to help ease their return. 

    • #3
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Giulietta: They just want to work in a safe environment and…as safe as we can rationally make it. And we can do that…”

    There is nothing rational about any of this at this point.

    • #4
  5. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

     Every other person who works in the service industries could make the same argument as the teacher’s unions. But they don’t; perhaps it involves integrity. As Albert Shanker (late head of the AFT) is reportedly to have famously said, “The children don’t pay union dues.” 

    • #5
  6. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):
    Every other person who works in the service industries could make the same argument as the teacher’s unions. But they don’t; perhaps it involves integrity.

    Maybe more like if people in the service industry don’t work, they don’t get paid . . .

    • #6
  7. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Giulietta: They just want to work in a safe environment and…as safe as we can rationally make it. And we can do that…”

    There is nothing rational about any of this at this point.

    @susanquinn I find the choice to work outside in 27°F wearing layers and draped in a polarfleece blanket in lieu of entering the building and teaching the children who did show up, especially the smallest children, nothing short of galling. The Reddit thread for teachers has been full of pronouncements during Covid like, “if I come back to work now, the students will find my dead body on the steps to our building.” Now there is a lot of panic about the school districts not giving specifics about vaccination schedules for students because many teachers seem to believe that children are carriers.

    There is nothing rational in any of this and to say it’s hysteria is to sell it short.

    • #7
  8. Franz Drumlin Member
    Franz Drumlin
    @FranzDrumlin

    This may be an idiotic question but are the teachers still collecting paychecks? Full paychecks? If so, why? The way I see it, no work = no pay.

    • #8
  9. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    Stad (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):
    Every other person who works in the service industries could make the same argument as the teacher’s unions. But they don’t; perhaps it involves integrity.

    Maybe more like if people in the service industry don’t work, they don’t get paid . . .

    I remember a Metra train conductor asking me about the CTU strike in fall 2019 and saying that his contract wouldn’t allow him to strike. So there’s also that factor…some people just have to get on with it-

    • #9
  10. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    Franz Drumlin (View Comment):

    This may be an idiotic question but are the teacher still collecting paychecks? Full paychecks? If so, why? The way I see it, no work = no pay.

    Yes, full paychecks and benefits. And, last time I checked (and unfortunately the blog has been taken offline) the Chicago Police Department is entering its 3rd year without a contract with piles of back-pay on the table. To say Chicago finances are bad is the understatement of the century.

    • #10
  11. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    Franz Drumlin (View Comment):

    This may be an idiotic question but are the teacher still collecting paychecks? Full paychecks? If so, why? The way I see it, no work = no pay.

    To salt the wound further, some teachers- including some who are high up in the Union pecking order- have been teaching from outside Illinois. So they are campaigning to teach remotely because of safety, but they hopped a plane to the Caribbean to teach from there (while collecting full pay and benefits).

    • #11
  12. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Teachers are always sick. They always have been. When you sign up to be a teacher, you do so understanding that you’re going to spend your life surrounded by little germ machines. And you’re ok with that. It’s part of the job.

    It bothers me to see doctors and nurses portrayed as heroes for treating COVID patients. I mean, this is what we signed up for. It’s our job. I’m sick a lot, because I’m always around sick people. And yes, I got COVID. Not a shocking development. This is what I do. When I started medical school, I knew that I would be spending my life around sick people. That was the plan, as a matter of fact.

    Other people have much higher risk professions than mine. Like the guy who picks up my garbage every week. Now THAT is a dangerous job. And my salary is quite a bit better than his. So I don’t complain, and I most certainly don’t view myself as a hero.

    So a teacher who is afraid of children because she might get sick – man, I don’t know. Did you think about this in college? Surely you did.

    This is silly. Grow up. Do your job. Or quit, and have somebody else do your job.

    But don’t try to portray yourself as virtuous simply because you won’t go to work.

    • #12
  13. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Reagan and the air traffic controllers comes to mind. Supporting the city when it fires the laggards, all of them (so I hope) would give Mr Biden credibility with the 99% of us who are not pampered public school teachers. Which means it won’t happen.

    • #13
  14. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Fire. Them. All.

    And terminate any agreement with the CTU.

    Replacing them should not be difficult.

    • #14
  15. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Teachers are always sick. They always have been. When you sign up to be a teacher, you do so understanding that you’re going to spend your life surrounded by little germ machines. And you’re ok with that. It’s part of the job.

    It bothers me to see doctors and nurses portrayed as heroes for treating COVID patients. I mean, this is what we signed up for. It’s our job. I’m sick a lot, because I’m always around sick people. And yes, I got COVID. Not a shocking development. This is what I do. When I started medical school, I knew that I would be spending my life around sick people. That was the plan, as a matter of fact.

    Other people have much higher risk professions than mine. Like the guy who picks up my garbage every week. Now THAT is a dangerous job. And my salary is quite a bit better than his. So I don’t complain, and I most certainly don’t view myself as a hero.

    So a teacher who is afraid of children because she might get sick – man, I don’t know. Did you think about this in college? Surely you did.

    This is silly. Grow up. Do your job. Or quit, and have somebody else do your job.

    But don’t try to portray yourself as virtuous simply because you won’t go to work.

    The elevation to hero status of people who work directly with the public- doctors, teachers, grocery and delivery workers- is one of the takeaways of this Covid era that I think will take a long time to fade, if it ever does. Remember the attempts to strike by Amazon workers in the early spring because they said the company didn’t care about their health (despite the raise in hazard pay, sick days, the redesign of the warehouses to accommodate distancing, etc)?

    In short, I share your sentiments.

    • #15
  16. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):

    Reagan and the air traffic controllers comes to mind. Supporting the city when it fires the laggards, all of them (so I hope) would give Mr Biden credibility with the 99% of us who are not pampered public school teachers. Which means it won’t happen.

    Biden could be in a pickle. People like Lightfoot cheered for him because they assume he will release federal funds to prop up (and hide) evidence of their mismanagement and if he sides with the CTU, Lightfoot at least will not be pleased with him. She won’t curse him out like she did with Trump, but in her vulgar, nasty little way it will be evident that she’s displeased.

    • #16
  17. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Parody is now impossible.

    • #17
  18. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Teachers I believe are not allowed to strike, per contract. However, most teachers unions simply ignore that contract provision regularly, go out on strike most years, and never suffer any consequences. They should be sued by parents for all the damage done to the children. 

    • #18
  19. DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone Coolidge
    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone
    @DrewInWisconsin

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Teachers I believe are not allowed to strike, per contract. However, most teachers unions simply ignore that contract provision regularly, go out on strike most years, and never suffer any consequences.

    Heck, in most places, they drag their students to the picket lines.

     

     

    • #19
  20. Captain French Moderator
    Captain French
    @AlFrench

    BBBut – making teachers go back to work is racist.

    • #20
  21. Full Size Tabby Member
    Full Size Tabby
    @FullSizeTabby

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):

    Parody is now impossible.

    Something that has bothered me throughout the pandemic is how poorly teachers have been at analyzing information to assess risk. Like the second tweet above, they often characterize entering a school building as a death sentence. Yet almost all active teachers are in age ranges in which death from Covid is basically a zero probability outcome. Not many active teachers are over 70 years old. People that incompetent at evaluating information should not be teaching our children. Another reason to fire them. 

    • #21
  22. Captain French Moderator
    Captain French
    @AlFrench

    Most public schools in Oregon are still closed, largely because of the teachers’ unions. There has been a lot of public pressure to reopen, from parents, medical organizations and even the liberal newspapers. A few weeks ago the governor eased restrictions on reopening, and turned the decisions over to the local school boards. She also moved the teachers to near the head of the line (in front of us old people) to get the vaccine. The teachers continue to throw up roadblocks. When the governor first announced the changes there was hope that students would start going back in early February. Now the talk is late March. I’m not putting any money on that.

     

    • #22
  23. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

     New Zealand’s Lange government, kicked out of its relationship with the UK, bought off their pro Soviet left by picking a fight with the US over ship access to New Zealand ports, then radically liberated their economy and in less than two years, the economy was booming as never before, the freest economy in the world. We’re being taken over by highly corrupt top down socialists and there may be no honest elections for many years so we may have to do something equally radical to get rid of the useless, expensive, self serving, corrupt Washington, California et all bureaucracies.

    • #23
  24. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    DrewInEastHillAutonomousZone (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Teachers I believe are not allowed to strike, per contract. However, most teachers unions simply ignore that contract provision regularly, go out on strike most years, and never suffer any consequences.

    Heck, in most places, they drag their students to the picket lines.

     

     

    Well now that kids have turned into SJWs they want to go too. They aren’t “kids” or “students” anymore- I’ve heard several of my more opinionated students (yes, I use the word) say those words are patronizing because it diminishes the fact that they have “valid opinions too”. They define themselves as “activists”.

    Take note!

    • #24
  25. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    Captain French (View Comment):

    Most public schools in Oregon are still closed, largely because of the teachers’ unions. There has been a lot of public pressure to reopen, from parents, medical organizations and even the liberal newspapers. A few weeks ago the governor eased restrictions on reopening, and turned the decisions over to the local school boards. She also moved the teachers to near the head of the line (in front of us old people) to get the vaccine. The teachers continue to throw up roadblocks. When the governor first announced the changes there was hope that students would start going back in early February. Now the talk is late March. I’m not putting any money on that.

     

    I’ve seen comments on the Reddit Teachers thread (the ones dealing with Covid) that say that Chicago’s CTU is a model for other unions. I wouldn’t be surprised if your district in Oregon is taking note of what is happening in Chicago.

    • #25
  26. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Teachers I believe are not allowed to strike, per contract. However, most teachers unions simply ignore that contract provision regularly, go out on strike most years, and never suffer any consequences. They should be sued by parents for all the damage done to the children.

    The Illinois Senate just repealed Section 4.5 which had previously stopped the CTU from being able to negotiate over class size, staff assignments, charter schools, subcontracting, and teacher layoffs. But now that Pritzker, that gem of a governor, has agreed to sign off on the change, the door’s been flung open to even more damaging strikes that will only hurt the children (all under the guise of helping them), as @drbastiat and you have mentioned on here.

    • #26
  27. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Stad (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):
    Every other person who works in the service industries could make the same argument as the teacher’s unions. But they don’t; perhaps it involves integrity.

    Maybe more like if people in the service industry don’t work, they don’t get paid . . .

    Why are the teachers getting paid?

    • #27
  28. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Teachers I believe are not allowed to strike, per contract. However, most teachers unions simply ignore that contract provision regularly, go out on strike most years, and never suffer any consequences. They should be sued by parents for all the damage done to the children.

    Going out on strike is the least of the damage they do to our children.

    • #28
  29. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Captain French (View Comment):
    She also moved the teachers to near the head of the line (in front of us old people) to get the vaccine. The teachers continue to throw up roadblocks.

    That’s because this is not about safety. This is about getting to stay home with full pay and full benefits. What a bunch of thugs are these teachers.

    • #29
  30. Giulietta Coolidge
    Giulietta
    @giuliettachicago

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):
    Every other person who works in the service industries could make the same argument as the teacher’s unions. But they don’t; perhaps it involves integrity.

    Maybe more like if people in the service industry don’t work, they don’t get paid . . .

    Why are the teachers getting paid?

    Their contract has allowed it. We will see if that changes. CPS asked children to stay home now, such blackmail from the CTU.

    • #30