Teachers in the Chicago Public School (CPS) system are staying home amidst COVID-19 worries – and forcing the over-burdened and bloated city budget to take yet another hit. An advertisement has hit the streets asking for an additional 2,000 temporary employees, with half of them designated substitute teachers and the other classroom monitors for teachers phoning in their responsibilities. As the new school semester begins at the end of January 2021, nearly half of Chicago’s teachers have requested remote learning.
With 361,000 students at 644 schools and an allotted $1.87 billion for its operating budget, they can ill-afford piling on new employees when the current roster of educators wishes to steer clear of the public petri dish. But that seems to be the answer everyone begrudgingly agrees on for now – though not without grandstanding.
Teachers’ union executive Stacy Davis Gates wasn’t entirely thrilled with the solution telling The Chicago Sun-Times that this solution was “slightly less terrible than forcing teachers to engage in synchronous learning from unsafe buildings.” Gates also railed against the new employees not having benefits – union and otherwise — and only receiving $15 an hour, obviously forgetting about the “temporary” terminology in the CPS advert. Gates then hinted instructors might be willing to return to the classroom if CPS would enact stricter and enforceable guidelines.
Despite union demands, Chicago is hiring to fill the gap left by truant teachers. The job requirements for that $15 an hour include making sure kids in the class are masked, paying attention to remote learning screens, and socially distancing, similar to what the teacher is discharging if he or she shows up.
The Good Old Days of Early COVID-19
When COVID-19 swept the nation last spring, parents, teachers, and employers seem to coalesce and help one another out during remote learning. Those honeymoon days of “we are in this together” are now unraveling in Chicago. CPS is again battling a teachers’ union that wants the doors closed, while schools wish kids off the street and in the classroom for a laundry list of reasons.
The union is calling CPS racist – who didn’t see that coming when one doesn’t get their way – and filed an injunction against the CPS reopening timeline. Yet, the union refused their seat at the negotiating table, instead opting for name-calling and lawsuits.
Chicago Public Schools have been closed since March. And now, with an opportunity for a safe reopening, half of the teachers want to stay home this year. Again?
Are they going to strike if CPS hires employees to pick up the slack? Last year, Chicago’s teachers closed the third-largest school system in the nation for two weeks over a “social justice agenda.” – an agenda that asked for additional support staff, a pay hike, and affordable housing. It seems as if that list of demands is two-thirds now completed. The adage “be careful what you wish for” comes to mind.
Read more from Sarah Cowgill