As negotiations continue between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union over the return of teachers and students to in-person learning, the White House says it is aware of the situation, and is hoping that the two sides can reach “common ground” in the coming days.
Asked about the negotiations during a Monday press briefing, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that President Joe Biden has “enormous respect” for Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, and that he is confident that she and the teachers’ union are both working in good faith to keep children and educators safe.
“Let me first say the president has enormous respect for Mayor Lightfoot, and he has also been a strong ally to teachers through his entire career,” Psaki said. “They’re both prioritizing the right things, which is ensuring the health and safety of the kids and teachers and working to make sure that children in Chicago are getting the education they deserve. He is hopeful they can reach common ground as soon as possible.”
The two sides are continuing to negotiate after the mayor and CPS officials ordered pre-K, cluster learning and K-8 teachers to return to classrooms Monday. If the teachers did not comply with that order, the mayor’s office said that the educators would be considered “absent without leave,” and that CPS would be forced to “take action.”
Teachers have been out of classrooms since last week after a CTU vote to switch back to all-remote learning was conducted. Teachers in cluster learning and pre-K classrooms had been back in school buildings for several weeks, but now all learning has been transitioned to a virtual environment amid the ongoing negotiations.
Teachers in K-8 classrooms were supposed to report back to schools last week, but did not as negotiations continued. Students were then supposed to follow suit on Monday, but with teachers and CPS officials at odds over coronavirus safety protocols, vaccine procedures and other key negotiating points, the odds of a work stoppage continue to rise with each passing day.
The president, who has made getting children back into schools one of his administration’s chief priorities, briefly addressed the negotiations in remarks last week.
“The teachers, I know they want to work,” the president had said. “They just want to work in a safe environment, and as safe as we can rationally make it, and we can do that.”
The head of the American Federation of Teachers, the national body of which CTU is a member, briefed the president on the negotiations and the situation last week at the White House, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.