No, I say what’s happened is that the Chicago Teachers Union embarrassed the mayor by revealing how inadequate school safety standards were. And rather than correct the standards, the mayor said whatever she had to say—dragging her hapless health commissioner along for the ride—to justify negligence that’s unjustifiable.
Not unless the mayor—who ran as a progressive—has suddenly transformed into a Chicago version of Ron DeSantis, ’cause the stuff she’s been spouting is straight-up MAGA.
Hey, I’m trying to give her the benefit of the doubt.
Before I dig deeper, a few basic points about the impasse that ended with an agreement Monday night . . .
And no one I know says we should shut down the schools to fight it. On the contrary, pretty much everyone recognizes children are better off in a classroom with real teachers.
Yes, this current COVID crisis is not the existential threat of the first one—at least for the vaccinated. Though who knows what the next strain will be like.
That said, there are some basic precautions any school system must take to protect the people in its school buildings.
And the notion that Chicago’s teachers initiated this fight because they want to permanently return to remote learning is a contrivance that Mayor Lightfoot cleverly created to divert attention from the inability of her school appointees—either through incompetence or negligence—to take the most basic of precautions to protect students, staff, and their families from a still potentially deadly disease.
How inadequate were the safety precautions? Well, let’s contrast Chicago’s COVID safeguards with those in Evanston, a thing I know thanks to assistance from a few friends who live there. (Much appreciation, V-Train and Jeanne.) In elementary and middle schools, Evanston’s students are greeted at the door by a staffer who takes their temperature.
If the students don’t have their masks, the staffer at the door gives them one. And if during the day, students lose their masks—as kids often do—there’s a ready supply of masks throughout the building, including in the classrooms. There’s weekly testing. If parents don’t opt out of testing, their children will routinely be tested.
And Evanston’s elementary school district puts the policy in writing, sending a letter to parents that says: “By sending a child to school without opting out of the testing program in writing, parents/guardians are consenting to their child to be tested for COVID-19.” Chicago, in contrast, well . . .
Think about that. Providing masks to students in the middle of a pandemic should not be a concession the mayor is forced to make in collective-bargaining negotiations with the teachers union. It should be an automatic that she demands from the start of the year. It was a similar thing in 2019—Mayor Lightfoot only pledged to provide more school nurses after the teachers went on strike. Why does it take teachers shutting down the system—and, in this case, giving up pay—before the mayor and her appointees do the right thing?
During last week’s negotiations, Pedro Martinez, the CEO of CPS, said he would make sure masks were delivered to schools if teachers returned to the classroom. There are no temperature-takers at the entrances. And most schools don’t have a supply of masks anywhere in the building—unless a teacher buys them.
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