Chicago Public Schools

Teachers Not Returning to Classrooms Would be ‘Illegal Strike,' CPS Says

On Thursday, some teachers once again held remote learning sessions outside their school building's in protest of CPS' decision to permit in-person learning

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After the Chicago's Teachers Union's House of Delegates voted to authorize all union members to conduct remote work-only beginning Jan. 25, Chicago Public Schools on Thursday said remaining out of schools is a "decision to strike" and in violation of their collective bargaining agreement.

A limited number of students in pre-K and special needs classes returned to the classroom in recent weeks as both the union and district remain embroiled in a debate over resuming in-person instruction.

On Thursday, some teachers once again held remote learning sessions outside their school buildings in protest of CPS' decision to permit in-person learning.

"We want to be in our classrooms, we want to be teaching our students, but we want to do it in a safe way," said teacher Linzi Melchor.

Students in kindergarten through eighth grade are set to return to the classroom on Jan. 25.

According to a CTU press release, more than 80% of the House of Delegates’ 600 committee members voted to pass a resolution to authorize remote work-only plans beginning Jan. 25.

According to the press release, rank-and-file members of the union have until Saturday evening to vote on the resolution.

If the resolution passes, it would authorize teachers to seek to exclusively work remotely beginning Monday. That action would require only a simple majority vote of the union’s membership, rather than the 75% that would be required for a full work stoppage, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Parents, however, seem divided regarding whether resuming in-person instruction was the right thing to do.

One parent, Natasha Dunn, said CPS has made it safe enough to return to the classroom, and says the CTU needs to figure out a solution with the district that doesn't make remote learning the only option.

"We want our schools to be successful," Dunn said. "Striking and saying to not go back wait... it's not productive at all."

CTU continued its fight Thursday by organizing a news conference with medical experts and parents who support keeping students at home, citing health and safety concerns.

CPS officials criticized CTU's vote, saying that the leadership of the union wants to “close schools that are already safely open.”

The district said the vote would "cancel in-person learning for the tens of thousands of students who asked to return — and the thousands of pre-K and cluster students who are already learning safely in classrooms."

"Our collective bargaining agreement includes a no-strike clause, and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board has ruled a strike of this nature would be illegal," the district said in part. "The decision by the union to remain out of schools and deny families access to in-person school is a decision to strike."

Along with the thousands of elementary and middle school staff and teachers expected to return to classrooms next week, an estimated 71,000 students are scheduled to join them on Feb. 1.

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