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Chicago Teachers Union votes to defy school reopening plan, potentially voiding union contract

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'CPS did everything possible to divide us by instilling fear through threats of retaliation'

Max Herman/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Chicago Teachers Union voted Sunday to defy the Chicago Public Schools reopening plan, meaning the hundreds of thousands of students who rely on public education in Chicago will continue to be denied the in-person learning services they desperately need.

What are the details?

Chicago Public Schools announced last month that pre-K and special needs students would return to school after the Christmas holiday and that in-person learning would resume for students kindergarten through eighth grade by Feb. 1.

With elementary and middle school teachers set to return to their school buildings on Monday, Jan. 25, the Chicago Teachers Union overwhelmingly voted to not return to work — and demonized CPS in the process.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

About 86% of the 25,000 rank-and-file CTU members voted on the resolution to stay home from schools, and 71% of those members approved the collective action, the union wrote in an email to teachers and staff. That means 61% of membership approved the labor action.

"So what does this mean? It means the overwhelming majority of you have chosen safety," the union wrote. "CPS did everything possible to divide us by instilling fear through threats of retaliation, but you still chose unity, solidarity and to collectively act as one."

The CTU claimed teachers want to return to in-person instruction, but alleged CPS has thus far been unprepared for students and staff to return in person.

"There's no doubt we all want to return to in-person instruction. The issue is CPS' current unpreparedness for a return to in-person instruction, and the clear and present danger that poses to the health of our families and school communities," the CTU said, WLS-TV reported.

But that's not necessarily true. As TheBlaze previously reported, Chicago Public Schools has spent $100 million to safely prepare its school buildings for in-person instruction.

How did CPS respond?

Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson said Friday that if teachers refuse to return to work, the city will view that as a strike.

"I think my point was clear that if the union refuses to work on Monday, that constitutes a strike," Jackson said, the Sun-Times reported.

The implications of a strike would be significant. That's because the union's latest collective bargaining agreement, reached after a strike in 2019, prohibits the union from going on strike. Doing so would void the agreement.

Anything else?

Although the union claims teachers should not be required to return to in-person learning because the pandemic has created an unsafe environment for students and staff, research data, like one Duke-led study in North Carolina, has revealed that COVID-19 transmission between students and staff is extremely low, even nonexistent in many cases.

Meanwhile, remote learning has proved to be an extreme burden on students.

Not only are students failing at record levels, but depression rates are reaching critical levels. In Las Vegas, with the fifth-largest school district in the U.S., an extremely high number of suicides persuaded officials to partially reopen schools "as quickly as possible."

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