Feb 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Chicago Teachers Union approves deal to reopen schools

Lori Lightfoot

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Photo: Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images

The Chicago Teachers Union approved a tentative agreement with the city to get the nation's third-largest school district on the "path to reopening school classrooms safely," the union announced on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The agreement ends a dispute between the union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot and will likely avert a strike by Chicago's teachers, per AP. Lightfoot had said it was safe to return to school with protocols in place, while the union contended the city was not doing enough to protect teachers.

  • The deal sets new standards on "accommodations, vaccinations, delayed re-opening, school closing metrics, and more," CTU president Jesse Sharkey wrote in a statement to members following the vote.
  • The union said 13,681 members voted to approve the plan and 6,585 voted against it.

What they're saying: "Let me be clear. This plan is not what any of us deserve," Sharkey wrote to members. "Not us. Not our students. Not their families."

  • "This agreement represents where we should have started months ago, not where this has landed. That is a stain on the record of their administration."
  • "In a humane system, we would have used this as a beginning to build out real equity for school communities that had been starved of resources and equity decades before the pandemic hit."

The other side: "The vast majority of CPS families have been separated from their schools for nearly a year, and the ratification of our agreement ensures families have options to choose in-person learning and make a plan that is best for them," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson in a statement.

  • "This vote reaffirms the strength and fairness of our plan, which provides families and employees certainty about returning to schools and guarantees the best possible health and safety protocols."

What's next: Pre-K and special education students can return to the classroom Thursday, per CBS. Elementary school students can return on March 1, middle schoolers on March 8. Plans for high school students were not announced.

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