Teachers’ Unions Push for Remote Learning


Richard Zhang and TJ Minsky, Managing Editor of Digital and Staff Writer

As COVID has once again made a surge in the United States, it has made its way into schools, causing a huge dilemma. More specifically, since returning from the lengthy holiday break, Chicago Public Schools have had trouble keeping both the teachers and students content. Countless teachers feel as if CPS is not doing enough to keep them safe from the new strand of COVID and believe remote learning would be better during the moment. On the other hand, most students prefer learning in-person. 

   Many of Chicago’s public school teachers have been showing their opposition in protest towards the policies that the Chicago Board of Education sanctions force teachers to continue to teach in-person. The CEO of CPS, Pedro Martinez, stated that the CPS decision to sanction these policies on schools is “firm” and “protects our students mental and physical health while promoting their academic progress.” 

   When asked what it was like working in public schools when the Teachers’ Union and the local government were at odds, Journalism Program Coordinator Mandy Krause said, “I was working as a public school teacher in Wisconsin when there was a lot of controversy around new state policies and teachers’ unions loosing their ability to collectively bargain, a major tenet of workers’ rights in the U.S.  It was a highly pressuring time to be a new teacher–wanting to do the right thing, but being pulled between schools hoping new teachers wouldn’t join a union, and having colleagues and mentors feeling passionately about their causes and wanting you to come to meetings.  I had witnessed literal sit-ins and protests while student-teaching, and while I was subbing, I’d read over lesson plans for the day, and see that teachers had gone to protest, which is why they were gone.  When I got my first job, union members realized I had a background of living in DC and being really politically aware, so they tried to recruit me to get involved in the union ranks immediately.  There was definitely a lot of tumult.   

   When asked how in- person learning compares to remote learning, Christoph ‘22 said, “In person learning has allowed me to excel in my learning because of the social interactions I can have with my teachers as well as the group learning style.” 

   However, many teachers feel differently about the reopening of schools after the surge in COVID cases after Winter Break. Back in mid-January, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to not report to school for at least one day until Mayor Lori Lightfoot signed an agreement with approvable conditions for return, or until the surge in COVID cases subsided. Lightfoot responded to this sentiment with a statement that the city had “spent over $100 million to put mitigations in place” and assured that schools were safe to “learn and thrive in school,”  but teachers remained away due to the protest for days.                        

   After Lightfoot and CPS further negotiated with the Chicago Teachers Union, the CTU decided to hold a vote to decide if they’d return or not, facing pressure from the city and CPS on making a quick decision. In the end, the teacher’s union barely decided to vote to stay in-person, with just around 55% of the vote. However, after the vote, hundreds of CPS students weren’t happy about the return to school and held a walkout over COVID safety. A student told ABC7 news that “the environments that we are in are not clean. They are not sanitary.” 

  CPS is in a tough situation as both the teachers and students have mixed feelings over in-person vs. remote learning. As of right now, most Chicago Public Schools are back to learning in-person while some teachers and students choose to work from home.