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Chicago teachers begin vote to refuse in-person teaching

Chicago teachers begin vote to refuse in-person teaching
© George Frey/Getty Images

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has begun a vote to refuse in-person teaching due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The union announced Wednesday that over 80 percent of its 600-member House of Delegates voted to pass a resolution authorizing all of its members to conduct remote work only beginning Jan. 25.

The resolution now goes to the entire unit for a vote on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. CTU represents more than 25,000 teachers working in Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

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The vote comes as CPS plans to resume in-person learning for preschool and some special education students next week. Kindergarten to eighth grade students can opt into in-person classes starting Feb. 1.

However, CTU had opposed the plan over safety corners, and contends that the district has refused to commit to basic safety measures.

“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 a statement Wednesday.

“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.”

In a statement shared with The Hill, CPS spokesperson Emily Bolton accused the union of wanting to “close schools that are already safely open to students, and cancel in-person learning for the tens of thousands of students who are relying on their dedicated educators to provide in-person learning in the coming weeks.”

Speaking in a news conference on Friday morning, CPS Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson defended the school system’s reopening plan, and said she’s “confident” that schools can reopen next week.

“We believe that we have a strong reopening plan in place. The past two weeks have proven that the protocols that we have in place and the plan that we have put together — taking into consideration some of the concerns from CTU and others — does work,” Jackson said. “We feel confident that we can safely reopen schools next week, as planned.”

Jackson added that if the vote goes through, it would constitute a strike, but remote learning would not be stopped.