The Illinois Green Party wholeheartedly supports the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) in its struggle with the Chicago Public Schools over in-person learning and school safety.

The CTU, naturally, is taking a stand to help protect its members from contracting the Coronavirus, but in doing so it is also protecting the health and safety of the children in the public schools and their families. Although political leaders argue that schools are safe, they are ignoring certain salient points. First, the companies that are contracted to keep the schools clean have a continuing poor record of not doing so. For example, Aramark did a generally poor job over the past few years in cleaning the schools. The most extreme example of this is when news media recorded newborn mice living in some rags in Mollison School a few years back. In general, teachers and staff complain about dirty conditions, lack of toilet paper and so on, especially in schools that have large populations of student of color. Yet CTU members are expected to trust that the schools are not only kept clean but “deep cleaned”.

Another point is that while the Omicron variant does not seem to as lethal as other variants, it has also shown to be more contagious. While less lethal, it the omicron variant is still filling hospitals to capacity and resulting in record case numbers in Illinois and nationally. People can and do still die from this. Children can and do still die from this.  A major concern of the CTU is that its members and the student bodies may take the virus home to their families who may not have been able to get any of the vaccines, may be immuno-compromised or have a family member who is in that position, putting their health and lives on the line. This isn’t just about the schools, it’s about broader public health.

A year ago the Chicago Public Schools and the CTU came to an agreement on a set of metrics that would be used to determine if a school or the whole school system would stop in-person learning and go to remote learning. What the CTU is asking for now is based on that. Why is the CPS reluctant to agree to what they agreed to in the past?

No responsible person would argue that remote learning is just as effective as in-person learning, but the health and safety of all should be paramount. The ILGP supports the CTU and would like to see the schools be safe before students, teachers, and staff go back into their schools.