WATCH: Chicago teachers perform interpretive dance about how they don't want to go back to work

The Chicago Teachers Union posted a video showing "rank-and-file dance teachers" doing interpretive dance in support of the union's decision to not return to work as Chicago Public Schools open.

Libby Emmons Brooklyn NY

The Chicago Teachers Union posted a video showing "rank-and-file dance teachers" doing interpretive dance in support of the union's decision to not return to work as Chicago Public Schools open.

"Six of our rank-and-file dance teachers come together to use their art form as a voice to express their desire to feel safe amidst CPS' teacher return policy. They stand in solidarity with all educators at risk, because no one should have to choose between life and livelihood," the Chicago Teachers Union tweeted.

"Rank-and-file" is a term used by unions to identify their workers, but dance teachers being called "rank-and-file" is a bit odd, since most of them undoubtedly have advanced degrees in dance.

Chicago Public Schools have been closed since March, and as they tried to reopen schools and get Chicago's children back into the classroom, they have been subjected to intensive pushback and refusals from the teachers union. CTU has decided fully that it is unreasonable for the school district that employs them to expect them to actually do the job for which they were hired.

Teachers were expected back at work on Monday, and when they refused, CPS extended that expected return to work day to Wednesday. But according to a press release, CPS has had to asked those students who were slated to come to school on Wednesday to stay home.

On Monday, President Joe Biden sided with the CTU to keep kids out of schools, repeating union talking points from the largest teachers union in the country, the NEA, which endorsed Biden for president. The NEA then issued a "playbook" to the Biden Harris administration outlining their demands for education, both for school reopening and additional pet projects.

The Chicago Teachers Union has refused to return to work this week, and voted to have students learning fully remote this week. Parents were informed Tuesday evening that their children would not be welcomed back in school on Wednesday, according to local news.

Chicago Public Schools issued a statement in response to to the CTU vote, saying "For the past three weeks, thousands of CPS students have been safely learning in person, and the union's action will prevent these students from receiving the classroom support their parents needed and chose."

"While we are greatly concerned for our youngest and highest-need students, who are suddenly without a safe, in-person learning option, we are continuing to make all possible efforts to reach an agreement that addresses the union's priorities and provides families a much-needed resolution," CPS said.

Those "rank-and-file" educators who voted to continue with remote learning as opposed to teaching children in the way they learn best, in the classroom, includes those dance teachers who created an interpretive dance video to express their advocacy for not going back to work in schools.

CTU said that 86 percent of its members voted, with 71 percent voting to stay the remote learning course of study that is failing Chicago's youth. This vote removes those teachers who were already going into school to prepare to resume teaching in person from continuing their work, as well as those who were teaching in person already.

The CPS plan would have had most students back in class as of Feb. 1. CPS has stated that this vote may result in a lockout against CTU teachers. CPS has already had to hire 2,000 classroom assistants to hedge against there being no teachers willing to work at the time when students are back in school.

This stand off could result in a strike, as well. The CTU is no stranger to strikes, having staged a walk-out in 2019 that lasted for 11 school days. In 2021, they claimed that withholding pay for teachers who refuse to return to work despite not having a valid medical excuse was "cruel and illegal."

CTU president Jesse Sharkey said that "We are willing to keep teaching, but CPS has said they will lock us out. We are willing to keep negotiating, but CPS has refused to back down from insisting that 80% of educators and support staff person in every elementary school be back in class on Feb. 1 to serve less than 20% of the students. Another 10,000 of our members became eligible for vaccinations on Jan. 25.  We can make schools safe with a phased reopening and enhanced COVID-19 testing for members of school communities."

CTU believes that the plan that CPS has in place is "both unsafe and unacceptable." Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS President Dr. Janice Jackson said on Thursday: "Earlier today we provided union leadership with the comprehensive proposal, which addresses most of the concerns that they have been talking about. We have made a commitment to expand surveillance testing and telework accommodations for staff, and to prioritize vaccinations in our hardest hit communities. We believe that our latest proposal to the union can serve as a foundation to a deal."

Chicago students are failing, in grade, in socialization, and in mental health. The data has been released from municipalities across the country that show just how dangerous, abysmal, and ineffective remote learning has been for kids across the board. Yet teachers unions consistently put their own fears and demands first, refusing to advocate for students.

CPS said "We must provide families, through no fault of their own, have been unable to make remote learning work for their children. We've seen grades, attendance and enrollment drop significantly for many of our students in recent months, and the impact has been felt most by our Black and Latinx students."

"We cannot, and as mayor I cannot, in good conscience, leave these students behind, who are failing," Lightfoot said. "(We cannot) when a safe solution is absolutely possible."

Teachers from kindergarten through grade eight were set to return to school Monday, yet they did not. The CTU said that their refusal to return to work isn't technically a work stoppage because they are still logging on to teach remotely. CTU does not appear to have acknowledged the complete failure of remote learning, and have stated that they won't go back to school until their members are vaccinated.

CPS has laid out a vaccination plan that would prioritize which teachers get the shot first, in the event that teachers are not able to get the vaccine through Illinois' phased system.


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