Chicago teachers go on strike over coronavirus outbreak in schools
Schools in Chicago, Illinois – the third-largest education system in the United States — remained closed as the new week began, due to a strike begun last week by the Chicago teachers’ union.
Illinois set an anti-record last week with 44,000 infected in a single 24-hour period. The Chicago union, which has 25,000 school teachers, went on strike in this regard. Teachers are pushing for teaching to be removed as of the new year until the municipality and the education department strengthen sanitary measures in schools and until a new labor contract is signed. Union leaders point out that because of the spike in illnesses, both attendance and teacher absenteeism in December have suffered greatly.
“Throughout the pandemic, city officials have failed to meet a number of our basic demands for schools, failed to provide sufficient staffing, sanitation standards, COVID testing and other things that we care about,” said union president Jesse Sharkey.
His organization is demanding that Chicago’s mayor’s office put in place clear parameters for under what circumstances instruction should be moved home from school. Teachers insist that now, with the new coronavirus outbreak, is just the right time to close schools.
City Manager Laurie Lightfoot strongly disagrees. She said that the actions of the teachers not going to work are illegal and arbitrary.
“What we know from the studies that have been done time and time again in our school system and around the country and around the world is that the safest place for children in a pandemic is to stay in school,” said Lori Lightfoot. – So if our students, our families care about you as much as we do, enough already! Our position is firm, we will not relent and we will fight to get our children back into school buildings. And that’s the end of it.”
Meanwhile, five thousand parents have petitioned to get their children back in schools.The American system is set up so that not every private company allows employees to stay home with a child. Many firms charge absenteeism for this and can even fire an employee. The average take-home pay for a nanny, according to Urban Sitter, is now $18 an hour in the United States. Not all families can afford it. Those parents who are able to work from home and watch their children worry about the quality of such remote education.
Last week, Chicago’s mayor’s office already canceled school for two days, extending the winter break. However, that’s where city officials would like to end the school shutdown. On Jan. 9, negotiations between the city’s school administration and the union resumed. The teachers’ proposal to switch to distance learning as of January 12 has still not been accepted. For now, the education department has agreed to provide everyone in school with protective masks and distribute 350,000 antibody tests to schools. However, Chicago officials do not intend to pay the salaries of teachers who have not gone to work.