Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot slammed the Chicago Teachers Union on Wednesday evening as teachers refused to come to work the next morning for a second straight day, over fears of Covid spread.
“I will not allow [the union] to take our children hostage,” Lightfoot said at a press conference. “I will not allow them to compromise the future of this generation of CPS students. That is not going to happen.”
Lightfoot also revealed that the city had filed an unfair labor practices complaint against the union over its Tuesday decision to switch to remote learning at all Chicago Public Schools facilities, which serve over 340,000 students. Earlier on Wednesday, CTU claimed on Twitter that Lightfoot had locked teachers out of remote learning platforms.
CTU is demanding that teachers resume in-person learning either when the current surge in Covid spread subsides, or other demands are met, including that all students present a negative Covid test before returning to in-person learning. That testing program would mirror the test-to-return requirement at districts such as Los Angeles Unified and Washington, D.C., where students and staff are already required to be tested for Covid once a week. The online testing portal used by D.C. schools crashed on Tuesday as tens of thousands of students and staff rushed to comply with the requirement.
However, Lightfoot said on Wednesday that the city would not force parents to obtain Covid tests for their children.
“We are not going to rob parents of their right and their obligation to tell us if they want testing or not on their children. It’s not going to happen. It’s morally wrong,” Lightfoot said.
The Chicago school district said some schools may be able to open on Friday, echoing Lightfoot by calling the teacher strike an “illegal work stoppage.”
“Some schools have enough staff reporting to work to return to in-person instruction as soon as Friday,” CPS said in a letter on Wednesday obtained by the Chicago Tribune. “Other schools have more limited capacity, and may provide learning packets and other materials for students to use during this illegal work stoppage.”
Students in Chicago already returned to class for in-person learning on Monday and Tuesday after the holiday break. However, around 450,000 students returned directly to remote learning after the break due to fears of Covid spread, according to the New York Times.