The head of the Chicago teachers union called Mayor Lori Lightfoot “relentlessly stupid” Monday amid a bitter fight over school closures in the nation’s third-largest district.
Chicago schools remained locked up Monday after city officials failed to reach an accord with the labor organization despite ongoing talks Sunday night.
“The mayor is being relentless, but she’s being relentlessly stupid, relentlessly stubborn,” Chicago Teachers United president Jesse Sharkey said Monday, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Lightfoot has blasted the teachers union for forcing the closure of schools by voting not to come to work due to insufficient COVID-19 protections.
“They abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families,” Lightfoot said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “We are working diligently every single day at the bargaining table to narrow the differences and to get a deal done.”
Lightfoot said the crucial point of disagreement at this stage relates to student testing. The union wants kids to be automatically subject to coronavirus screening unless their parents formally object.
They backed off a prior demand that all students get tested prior to a return to classrooms.
Currently, parents must opt their kids into testing in order for them to be eligible.
In addition, the union called for a temporary switch to remote learning this week until safety precautions can be put in place.
But Lightfoot has rejected any closures, arguing that schools are safe and that distance learning thrusts parents into difficult positions.
“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,” Lightfoot argued.
But the union held firm Monday, with Sharkey asserting that teachers were not yet in a position to safely return to their classrooms.
“We feel like we’re at a point where we don’t have enough at the table to be able to go back to the people who, frankly, have sacrificed a lot at this point, and confidently say, ‘This is something that can help us ensure our safety,’” Sharkey said.
There are roughy 350,000 students in Chicago public schools.