Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot Blames Trump for Teachers Union Standoff

Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, left, speaks after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a shelter in place order to combat the spread of the Covid-19 virus, during a news conference Friday, March 20, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP Photo

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot blamed former President Donald Trump for the standoff between the city and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), whose members have defied an order to return to their classrooms and threatened a possible strike.

As Fox News reported, Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Janice Jackson released a statement Monday evening saying that CPS had backed down on its threat to lock teachers out of remote learning portals if they refused to show up for preparation for in-person instruction.

“Look, this is a very difficult situation,” Lightfoot told CNN’s New Day Tuesday. “And we’re in it, still, because of the incompetence of the previous administration. So, I think it’s important for both sides to come to the table in good faith, recognize that we’re both trying to work through a very challenging situation, but we must get a deal done.”

“So, I’ve tried to say, ‘Let’s cool down, let’s lower the temperature, let’s focus on bridging the divide in the remaining issues,’” she added. “And those 70,000-plus parents who have said I want to come back to in-person for my student, that they have the option to do so.”

Asked by the host if the union is insisting all teachers receive the COVID-19 vaccine prior to a return to their classrooms, Lightfoot evaded the question saying she did not want to negotiate on television.

“But, it’s important that we focus on what’s realistic, and what’s not,” she replied. “And that’s the kind of clarity that my team is bringing to the bargaining table.”

The mayor added the city and the union “made material progress” on Monday and that she remains “optimistic” they can have a deal by Wednesday.

When asked about the concerns teachers have of being exposed to the coronavirus in schools and bringing the infection home to their families, Lightfoot said:

These are really difficult times in a pandemic, exacerbated by the incompetence of the previous administration that didn’t leave us with enough vaccine to really quickly get to the entire population in our city that needs it. But we’re going to keep working hard recognizing the concern that, really, all of our residents have regarding COVID-19.

However, as the Chicago Sun Times reported, both Lightfoot and Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady have stated vaccinations are only one part of a mitigation strategy, one that includes masks, more efficient ventilation systems, and strict cleaning protocols. Both officials have said all teachers do not need to receive the vaccine before returning to work.

Teachers, however, have complained about the confused and disorderly manner of the vaccine rollout within the school district.

One union attorney described it as a “bizarre ‘Hunger Games’ situation,” with some school principals making their own arrangements with local pharmacies to get the vaccine to their school staff, the Sun Times observed.

On Facebook this week, one clinician reportedly criticized the school district:

CPS sent out information only after a press conference and a fellow clinician asked why they weren’t informing staff, or assisting them. Teachers at my schools are scrambling around, signing up, helping each other. No direction, organization to help them. And the mayor said they have a robust vaccination plan. I was so pissed off when I heard that.

About 3,700 CPS staff members have either received the vaccine or had the opportunity to obtain it, Arwady said.

Chicago students have not been in classrooms since the pandemic lockdowns in March 2020.

A report released in December by the Association of Christian Schools International showed that 90 percent of Christian schools opened the 2020-2021 academic year with in-person instruction as planned, despite the pandemic.

CPS had ordered K-8 teachers to report to their schools Monday. CTU President Jesse Sharkey said the union had already voted to strike if its members were locked out of their remote learning tools.

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