Chicago Public Schools canceled classes for the second day in a row Thursday after talks with the local teachers union, which is demanding to start the year in remote learning due to omicron, failed to resolve the standoff.
CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said he had “no choice” but to extend the closure because only 10% of teachers showed up on Wednesday, though he said students would receive some in-person instruction, packets to take home and help with college applications on a school-by-school basis as of Friday, according to WBEZ Chicago.
The standoff is the focus of a nationwide debate over the need to offer in-person education after a bruising pandemic in which young Americans suffered academically and emotionally from the lack of classroom instruction. It also has pitted a Democratic president and much of his party against teachers unions that have long been strong supporters and sources of funding for the party.
The White House declined to assign blame for the standoff Thursday but said in-person instruction must resume across the nation.
“The president has been very clear he wants these schools to be open, including in Chicago,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
Democratic leaders in New York City, Chicago and elsewhere have resisted calls for remote options, a rare break from union allies.
“If you care about our students and families as we do, we will not relent. We are standing firm and fighting to get our kids back to in-person learning,” Chicago Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted late Wednesday.
The Chicago Teachers Union voted late Tuesday to revert to remote learning for the start of the year through Jan. 18, saying its members wanted to reenter classrooms but hadn’t seen sufficient testing of students or other safety measures to prevent new COVID-19 outbreaks.
The union has characterized the city’s actions as a “lockout” because teachers are willing to offer remote instruction.
“In just the last two days, we’ve seen more movement at the bargaining table than in the last few months,” union President Jesse Sharkey said late Wednesday. “Unfortunately, this confirms the pattern. The mayor won’t budge until we demonstrate our willingness to collectively assert our demands. The mayor’s response is to try to demonize the CTU for ‘breaking off negotiations,’ even though they’ve only just now begun negotiating in earnest.”
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