The 340,658 students enrolled in Chicago Public School (CPS) are going on day three of cancelled classes, after the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted to refuse orders to work in-person because of increasing cases of COVID-19.

On January 4, according to NPR, 73% of the 25,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union voted “to refuse orders to work in-person, opting for remote work only.”

But since the city’s school district, Chicago Public Schools, wants teachers to work in-person, the district cancelled all classes starting Wednesday. As of Friday, January 7, classes are still cancelled for the third day.

The teacher’s union and the district are currently at a standoff and have been engaged in aggressive negotiations since Wednesday.

In a late-night tweet on January 4, the Chicago Teachers Union wrote a post saying that the district’s teachers will only begin working in-person again “when one of the following conditions is met: The current surge in cases substantially subsides, or the mayor’s team at CPS signs an agreement establishing conditions for return that are voted on and approved by the CTU House of Delegates.”

Following CTU’s vote, Pedro Martinez, CEO of CPS penned a letter to families, letting them know that both in-person and remote instruction would be unavailable beginning on January 5.

“We want our children back in their classrooms as soon as possible and will continue working with the CTU to reach an agreement that addresses their concerns and that is in the best interest of all in our CPS community, especially our children,” Martinez wrote.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has called the teachers refusal to show up to work an “illegal work stoppage” and an “unlawful, unilateral strike.”

“What we want is for Chicago Teachers Union leadership to come to the table in good faith, stop moving the goalposts and forge an agreement,” Lightfoot added.

For Chicago parents, who want their children to receive an in-person education, the latest move from CTU is undoubtedly puzzling.

Public schools around the country have received hundreds of billions of dollars in additional funding to be able to reopen for in-person learning.

Between the CARES Act passed in March 2020, the spending bill passed in December 2020, and most recently the American Rescue Plan of 2021, Congress has sent schools $192 billion to be able to reopen safely.

According to The Brookings Institution, “Online coursework generally yields worse student performance than in-person coursework.”

“Negative effects of online course-taking were particularly pronounced for males and less-academically prepared students,” Brookings notes.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found in March 2021 that “virtual instruction might present more risks than does in-person instruction related to child and parental mental and emotional health and some health-supporting behaviors.”

The CDC found that “More than half, 54%, of parents with kids stuck in virtual school said they suffered from increased emotional distress, 16.4% said they were increasingly using drugs or alcohol and 21.6% said they had trouble sleeping at night,” according to CNBC.

Enough is enough.

By all accounts, the prevalence of online learning and remote instruction over the past two years has been disastrous for our nation’s children.

It’s time, past time, that students are able to learn in-person. And it’s extremely unfortunate that Chicago’s teachers have decided they don’t need to show up to work.

Every election cycle, politicians talk about the importance of investing in education. Shouldn’t teachers, who are tasked with doing the educating, be the first ones to demonstrate how important their jobs really are? Isn’t actually showing up to work the most basic investment they can make?

To help parents navigate their child’s public school, Focus on the Family has created a free resource, Back to School for Parents: A busy parent’s guide to what’s happening in your children’s classrooms and practical steps you can take to protect them.

You can download a free copy of this resource by clicking here.

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