Politico

Lightfoot says teachers union 'abandoned their posts,' remains 'hopeful' deal can be reached


Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot continued her bruising attacks against the city’s teachers union, but said she remains “hopeful” a deal can be reached on Sunday to get children back into their classrooms.

The teachers union for the nation’s third-largest school district voted last week to shutter classes in a Covid-related labor dispute.

“I’m doing everything I can to make sure“ kids will be in school this week in Chicago, Lightfoot said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And to be clear, what the Chicago Teachers Union did was an illegal walkout. They abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”

Lightfoot reiterated her position that the city’s schools are safe and that children need to be in the classroom. She argued the leverage is on the side of outraged families, who are demonstrating an “unprecedented level of parent activism,” noting that 70 percent or more of Chicago’s children qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches.

“This walkout by the teachers union, which is illegal, has had cascading negative ripple effects not only on the students in their learning, their social and emotional welfare, but also on the families themselves,” Lightfoot said. “It is making them have tenuous financial status because they have to work, but they also have to take care of their kids. This is an untenable situation and completely, utterly avoidable. So I’m going to be on the side of the parents fighting every single day to get our kids back in school.”

The public spat between Chicago’s mayor and the teachers union comes at a time of heightened Covid-19 tensions and evolving CDC guidance. The Omicron variant has caused the largest surge in Covid cases during the pandemic, but the variant appears to be producing less severe symptoms among those who are vaccinated, leaving some experts to rethink how we live alongside the virus.

Lightfoot said the city has responded to the union’s concerns over testing for children, telling NBC’s Chuck Todd, “We think we can get agreement there.” She noted that Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced he would provide 350,000 additional tests to the school district.

“We have put together a revised proposal for a school-by-school metric, which really mirrors what we’ve been doing, Chuck, all along this year,” Lightfoot said. “We haven’t sat idly by and let Covid rage through our schools. When there’s been a necessity to shut down a classroom or shut down a school, to go to remote learning, we’ve done that.”

Time is of the essence to get this dispute resolved, she said.

“We’re working like the dickens to make sure that we get a deal done today,” Lightfoot said.

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