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CTU is defining the parameters of the possible

Reports from the front

After the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) voted last week to suspend in-person learning, we share two reports on the impact. First, Ashwin Ravikumar, a western Massachusetts-based organizer and assistant professor at Amherst College, provides their perspective. Second, a Chicago teacher at a non-union private preschool responds to Tempest coverage.

Every Chicago (and other) teacher I know desperately wants to be back in the classroom with their students.

Yes, schools provide free meals and childcare for many people. That is why every Chicago teacher I know has been consistently demanding alternative support for meals and childcare since the pandemic began. Despite Chicago’s considerable resources (yeah, I mean that), [Mayor Lori] Lightfoot and CPS have continually insisted that teachers stop complaining and get back in the classroom. They began to beat this sordid drum well before vaccines were available. When COVID was still a die-roll for death.

Lori Lightfoot had all kinds of levers available to her to mitigate the harm that a shutdown would do to working families. And she knew this was coming, given the projections of Omicron’s spread at least a month ago. She instead chose to act like an absolute toddler, shifting blame to teachers and locking them out of their zoom accounts.

Do not believe the bullshit about this being teachers’ fault. Do not swallow the canard that there was no better alternative.

Yes, everyone is exhausted from COVID. Yes, poor and working families are no more able to work and care for children at home than they were a year ago.

But the rich are richer than they have ever been. Wealth is more concentrated among the elite of Chicago, the United States, and the world, than ever before.

The resources exist to provide alternatives to the childcare and meals that schools normally provide. At a minimum, the resources to mitigate the worst effects of remote instruction are very much there. We can afford better, we must demand better.

Ashwin Ravikumar

Chicago Teachers Union Rally 10-14-19. Photo by Charles Edward Miller.

I am convinced that once again, I directly benefited from the work of CTU. At my school, the day CTU voted to go remote, my admin decided to close school for two weeks. My admin claimed no connection to the CTU action, but I believe CTU is defining the parameters of the possible. My admin had thought about closing before we started up, but after a known exposure in my classroom, and the CTU action, they closed down. An exposure alone didn’t meet our standards for closure, so I think CTU allowed us to do the obviously smart thing. By the end of the week, after two days of class, a teacher in every classroom tested positive.

The janitor in my school told an upsetting story. She had her daughter logged on with her teacher on Tuesday January 4, the first day after the vote to go remote. Suddenly, the remote class ended. She called the school and the school told her that CTU shut down the remote software. Needless to say, that was not the case. A friend of mine and her husband are entering their second week without income. Let’s hope Chicago Public Schools and the mayor do what they need to, or just get their heads on straight soon.

-Private pre-school teacher

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