CTU Must Stop the Theatrics and Support Return to In-person Instruction

As a parent, it is extremely disheartening to see the Chicago Teachers Union once again needlessly fear-mongering about returning to in-person school. The narrative they want to sell is distort, delay, don’t open. This is a manufactured crisis.

When I hear CTU or their proxies talk, they are just reiterating the talking points of fear. In past pandemics, just as now, non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) were used to control viral spread: hand-washing, social distancing and so on. In this pandemic, we are also deploying pharmaceutical interventions: vaccines and treatments. 

When it comes to dealing with Covid-19, we are in a very different place now than we were a year ago. Nearly two-thirds of Chicagoans have completed a vaccine series. If anybody is equipped to deal with the current situation, it’s us right now.

Let’s go back 12 months. This time last year, the union was kicking and screaming against opening the schools, and CPS didn’t. It took parents being organized and media coverage to get the schools open again, starting with pre-kindergartners and students with IEPs.

My older son was one of them. Last year, he was in kindergarten. It was a total nightmare. He did most of the year remotely. Once he returned in person, he went from failing to high marks. His teachers wouldn’t stop raving about how he was flourishing with in-person instruction. For elementary school, there’s light years’ worth of difference between remote and in-person school.

After a year of remote learning, too many of our young kids, including mine, are far, far behind where they should be.

Our kids have had way too much remote school.

After a year of remote learning, too many of our young kids, including mine, are far, far behind where they should be. When my wife and I met with our older son’s first-grade teachers at Open House in the fall, they told us, “We’re really scared. Not for your son, but for all of them, because they are so far behind already.” 

It turns out, they were right to be worried. At the end of the first quarter, my son earned Cs in the three R’s, reading, writing and arithmetic.

Our principal told me, “I wish we could just do the year over for kindergarten and first grade.”

Too many of our elected officials will refuse to speak out against this situation because they are afraid of CTU. They don’t want CTU money funding primary challengers or to lose the hefty union funding that paves the way for their re-election campaigns. At what cost does this CTU funding come? It comes at the cost of doing what’s easy instead of doing what’s right.

That leaves parents—again—as the final line of defense.

I grant that the more-contagious Omicron variant and spiking numbers of cases may fuel already-high staffing shortages to a point that requires limited school closings. But blanket school closures like we saw in 2020 and 2021 should not be necessary. At the very worst, it should only be necessary to move back through the stages we used to re-open schools. We opened schools for students with IEPs first, then for all elementary, then for high school.

How a society educates its most vulnerable and disabled children is always the measure of its humanity.

Photo by Muneer ahmed ok on Unsplash

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Nolberto Casas

Nolberto Casas is a community activist and member of the Hispanic Community Collaborative and the Chicago Gig Alliance. He is also a father of two CPS students and a passionate advocate for in-person instruction.

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