Chicago Public Schools has failed to follow through on its threat to lock any teachers who refused to report to classrooms on Monday out of their remote learning platform, saying that substantial progress had been made in negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union and calling for a 48-hour "cooling off period" for negotiations to continue.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) has been aggressively pushing teachers in the nation's third-largest school district to return to classrooms and follow a reopening plan that she and the city's health experts all agree is safe. The teachers have refused, wanting to wait until all teachers in the district are fully vaccinated and until the city has set better metrics for opening and closing schools.
When the two sides did not conduct any negotiations on Sunday, Lightfoot ordered all teachers to report to their classrooms on Monday and said that any teachers who refused would be locked out of their virtual learning suites and subject to discipline for being absent without leave. The CTU responded by threatening to call a strike if teachers were locked out of their virtual learning software, a move that would likely be illegal under Illinois law, which prohibits teachers from striking while they are under contract.
However, after negotiations continued Monday, the city appears to have backed down, at least for now. In a joint statement released Monday, Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson said, "We have secured agreement on one other open issue and made substantial progress on a framework that we hope will address the remaining issues. We are calling for a 48-hour cooling off period that will hopefully lead to a final resolution on all open issues."
The statement indicated that, as a "gesture of good faith," the teachers who refused to show up on Monday would not be locked out of their remote learning suites, at least not through Wednesday. CTU president Jesse Sharkey praised the decision, saying, "We want to keep working remotely as we bargain an agreement to return to our classrooms safely. And we're one step closer to that goal today, because management has agreed to stay at the table rather than escalating conflict or locking out educators."
As always, Chicago parents find themselves holding the short end of the stick, as many of them who had prepared to send their children back to classrooms today have now had that pushed back to Thursday, at least.
In an interview with Morning Joe on Monday, Lightfoot praised unions in general and called Chicago a "union town" but blasted the CTU specifically, which has been a thorn in the city's side since before the prolonged strike of 2019. "We have over 40-plus unions in the city of Chicago that serve our workforce. We have labor peace with every single one except two: The right wing leadership of the Fraternal Order of Police, and [the Chicago Teachers Union]."