Chicago teacher strike looms over Mayor Lightfoot’s demand for a return to classroom learning

Chicago is at the epicenter of the nation’s struggle against teachers’ unions that are crippling a generation of children by refusing to resume classroom teaching in many Democrat-controlled cities.  Recently, Lori Lightfoot, the Democrat Mayor of Chicago, has clashed with the Chicago Teachers Union, demanding that they return to the classrooms, while the union resists and makes demands, the latest being for complete vaccination of teachers before a return to their duties.

The Chicago Sun-Times has excellent coverage of the current state of the dispute as a strike is threatened over the demand that teachers do their jobs in return for receiving their pay (as they have been since the suspension if classroom teaching).  Nader Issa and Tim Schuba write:

In a sign of the growing discord, CPS and CTU could not publicly agree why there were no negotiations Sunday. The district said its bargaining team stood ready to resume negotiations, waiting for a counterproposal from the union that never came. The union said it was told talks would continue only if “we were offering major concessions,” which it was unwilling to do.

The chaotic end to what both sides had hoped would be a successful weekend leaves thousands of families unsure of what’s next — including at the high school level. If CPS locks out elementary and middle school teachers and the union strikes, high school classes would also come to a halt, jeopardizing final exams scheduled this week. Lightfoot said she hopes “we never get to that point.”

Mayor Lightfoot is putting a happy face on what looks like a bitter dispute. Because teachers’ unions are a key constituency for Democrats, providing vast sums of money and critical manpower for get out the vote and other activities, she is really in an awkward position if she is too critical.

Despite the deadlock, the mayor said she spoke with CTU President Jesse Sharkey by phone, calling their conversation “cordial and productive.”

“We agreed at the end of the call that we would keep the lines of communication open,” Lightfoot said. “There were no insults by either side.”

Teachers are trying to place themselves in a privileged position, jumping the line ahead of groups at greater risk of Covid when it comes to their place in line for receiving Covid vaccinations.

[CTU President Jesse] Sharkey also said he understands vaccine supply is limited and teachers can’t jump in line ahead of essential workers who have been in-person the whole pandemic. But he was frustrated by what he called a lack of communication on the issue by district officials. The city is giving CPS 1,000 vaccines per week, leaving most educators searching for shots in what a union attorney described as a “bizarre ‘Hunger Games’ situation.”

The union has said its members shouldn’t be required to work in person before they’ve had a chance to be vaccinated, arguing educators should be moved to the front of the vaccine line if the city wants to reopen schools immediately.

Lightfoot and Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady have been reluctant to do that, saying essential workers who have been in person all this time should be prioritized over teachers.

“The vaccine is a part of a public health toolkit in order to mitigate the spread of COVID,” Jackson said. “Rule No. 1 is that you have to disseminate those vaccines in places where we’re trying to stop the spread of COVID. Schools are not significant sources of spread. And so this is a public health solution. We have to start with that. Some of these other things are incredibly important, but some of them are political decisions.”

In my view, teachers are among the most-propagandized groups when it comes to hysteria over Covid risks. Because so many of them are true believers in the cant of the left, the rank and file may well feel seriously threatened by risks that other groups shrug off. In addition, they probably bought into the misinformation spread about hydroxychloroquine (and now, Ivermectin) being supposedly ineffective, even harmful, in the early treatment of Covid. Those early therapies could limit harm in many, many cases, if used early and in combination with other common drugs and supplements. (Of course, make any decisions abut your own health care in consultation with your physician. I do not offer any medical advice here.)

The cancellation of classroom learning over Covid fears is imposing huge costs on children, their parents and society. In the long run, the dumbing down, psychic cost, and lack of socialization of a generation of kids may turn out to be deeply destructive for American society and impair out international competitiveness.

And it is all so unnecessary. As is well established, children very rarely get Covid, and teachers are safer than many, many other categories of workers (supermarket cashiers, for one of countless examples) who have worked through the epidemic as “essential” workers. Cheryl K. Chumley of the Washington Times writes:

According to 2011-2012 data from the National Center for Education Studies, the average age of teachers in the United States was 42. Roughly 15% were younger than 30 years old; 54% fell between 30 years old and 49 years old; nearly 12% were between the ages of 50 and 54; and almost 19% were age 55 or higher.

Child Trends, meanwhile, reported that in 2017-2018, only 17% of public school teachers in America were above the age of 55 years old; 12% were between 50 and 54 years old; 57% between 30 and 49 years old; and 14% younger than 30.

In other words: They’re not exactly fitting the profile of COVID-19’s most vulnerable. And suggesting otherwise — as this headline, “Nearly one third of U.S. teachers are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 due to age,” as Child Trends wrote in April of 2020 — is hyperbolic.

The only reason teachers get by with staying home from school is because their unions are using the coronavirus to financial and political advantage. The unions are driven by far-left socialists who think nothing of putting kids in harm’s way — of stymying their educational growth, of shuttering their social maturity, of yanking their athletics and stopping their after-school programs and even turning blind eyes to those who are abused, hungry and harassed — the unions think nothing of harming youth this way if it advances their demands for more pay, more money, more cushy work benefits.

The situation in Chicago is worth watching closely. Democrat leaders like Lightfoot are caught between pressures from parents and the irrational demands of their single most important interest group. If teachers continue to shrug off their duries, they should be subject to discipline, including firing, though the idea of a Demcorat taking such aciton againsts a critical interest group is fanciful.