- The Washington Times - Monday, February 15, 2021

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot railed against the Chicago Teachers Union in a new interview, saying it acts more like a “political party” with aspirations far beyond protecting teachers.

Ms. Lightfoot has famously battled the union in recent weeks, finally reaching a deal on Wednesday to reopen elementary and middle schools in the city that have been closed to in-person learning since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. The Democratic mayor said the union‘s political aspirations will continue to create conflict with local government. 

“Let me put it in a context of labor across the city,” Ms. Lightfoot told The New York Times in an interview published Sunday. “We have relationships with over 40 [organized labor] units. We have labor peace with almost every single one, except for two: The Fraternal Order of Police, which has a lot of right-wing Trump aspirations, and the Chicago Teachers Union [CTU].

“When you have unions that have other aspirations beyond being a union, and maybe being something akin to a political party, then there’s always going to be conflict,” she said.

Ms. Lightfoot argued that CTU‘s spending gives “a real clear indication of what their larger ambitions are,” which aren’t to increase funding for schools or pass police reform.

“I think, ultimately, they’d like to take over not only Chicago Public Schools, but take over running the city government,” she declared. “That’ll play itself out over time. I don’t really spend time, and certainly not in the middle of a pandemic, worrying about the politics. But politics intrudes, always.”

Ms. Lightfoot said she’s thankful she had the authority to get schools reopened and walked back her earlier support for restoring an elected school board.

“We would never have opened without mayoral control,” she said. “It’s quite clear. The fact that L.A. and San Francisco had to sue to force the conversation about reopening? Look, what’s easy, the path of least resistance, the political expediency, would have been to do nothing and just let the unions dictate what the state of play was going to be in education. That’s never, ever going to be the path that I take.”

The deal reached by the union and district officials last week allowed pre-K and special education to resume in-person learning on Thursday, while other students in K-8 will return in early March for limited classroom instruction. No plans have been set for high school students.

Ms. Lightfoot told The Times she’s “very focused” on getting high schools reopened and hopes that can be achieved this school year.

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