While the media continuse to hail teachers as 'heroes of the pandemic' and offer free Christmas trees on virtue signaling credit card adverts, other data begs the question whether a large segment of the education profession is working hard...or hardly working. Chicago Public Schools preparation for reopening for kindergarten and special needs students has been met with resistance. Out of 5,800 teachers and staff members ordered to return to work Jan. 4, only 60 percent did so, amongst teachers the number drops to around 50 percent. The school district has threatened employees with progressive discipline should they remain absent.
Students appear even more hesitant, sampling indicates only 37 percent intend to attend classes in-person. The current CPS timeline calls for pre-school through eighth grade to return by Feb. 1, with high schoolers to following March. But the ambitious re-opening plans have grown contentious on both sides. Mayor Lori Lightfoot recognizes the urgency. "We can't write off the school year, as some have said to me privately. Writing off a school year is writing off children's lives," she said. With no thought of what the future could hold, Chicago teachers went on strike for 11 days in 2019, adding to what is now two years of limited learning opportunities. Then there is CTU vice-president/executive board member Sarah Chambers, who posted poolside resort photos from Puerto Rico Dec. 31. That was not a good look.
As the nations third-largest school district, Chicago faces additional challenges with large segments of the population not able to afford the laptops and wi-fi needed on participate in online learning. Teachers counter with signs saying, "teaching online is hard, teaching from the grave is impossible." At least school personnel have not had to worry about breaking up hallway fights and policing drug use lately. Health care has done better stepping up to the challenge. Most would be down with teachers getting head of the line privileges for vaccinations. But the return to normalcy has to begin soon before America faces a lost generation unable to learn.