Labor

Chicago schools closed for third-straight day amid heated negotiations

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Chicago Public Schools (CPS) on Friday will stay closed for a third straight day following a protest from city teachers who are concerned about a lack of safety protocols amid a surge of confirmed coronavirus cases.

The Chicago Teachers Union is in the midst of heated negotiations with the school district over COVID-19 safety protocols. The union is pushing for remote learning and told teachers not to report to work in-person on Wednesday, while school administration and higher-ups are canceling classes instead of returning to virtual classrooms.

About 350,000 students in the nation’s third largest school district are affected by the third day of canceled schooling.

The teachers union has criticized the public school district for logging inaccurate data on COVID-19 infections and botching tests. On Tuesday, 73 percent of teachers voted for a return to remote learning until the pandemic subsides or the school district and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) approves a plan that the union agrees on.

“To be clear: Educators of this city want to be in buildings with their students. We believe that classrooms are where our children should be,” the union tweeted on Wednesday. “But as the results tonight show, Mayor Lightfoot and her CPS team have yet to provide safety for the overwhelming majority of schools.”

Lightfoot has filed a complaint with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board arguing the teachers strike was illegal and should end immediately, while the Chicago Teachers Union filed its own complaint asking for remote instruction because it has a right to refuse work based on hazardous conditions.

In the U.S., public schools were entirely remote or hybrid during the early days of the pandemic, but most have returned to in-class instruction. President Biden said during a news briefing Tuesday that schools should stay open because they have the federal and state funding for it.

“I encourage the states and school districts to use the funding that you still have to protect your children and keep the schools open,” he said. “I know that our kids can be safe when in school by the way. That’s why I believe schools should remain open. They have what they need.”

Illinois reported its highest spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases on Thursday, with more than 44,000 cases added for a total of 2 million cases. The state has vaccinated more than 68 percent of its population ages 5 and older.

In Chicago, Lightfoot appeared on MSNBC Wednesday and said the city put $100 million into COVID-19 safety regulations.

“What we want is for Chicago Teachers Union leadership to come to the table in good faith, stop moving the goalposts and forge an agreement,” she said.

Tags Chicago Chicago Teachers Union COVID-19 Education Illinois Joe Biden Labor Lori Lightfoot pandemic Protest remote learning schools schools Strike

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