By: Mark Glennon*
Do it, Ms. Jackson. Fire them if they won’t work.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson warned last week that teachers without preexisting conditions who don’t show up to schools when they open will be fired.
The damage inflicted by school shut-downs on Chicago’s youth, particularly minority youth, is already horrifying. Despite no meaningful risk whatsoever, the Chicago Teachers Union is now seeking an injunction against reopening. Nothing could be more just – and better for Chicago students in the long run – than canning teachers who are ducking their obligation.
Remote learning is an abysmal failure. ‘F’ grades are 2.6 times higher than last year in Chicago elementary schools and worse for minority and homeless students. Almost a quarter of kids haven’t logged in even once. It’s much worse for minority and homeless students.
Many get no square meal and no adult guidance outside of school. They are being robbed of not just an education but of the only structure in their lives.
Yet the CTU said “the push to reopen schools is rooted in sexism, racism and misogyny.” That tweet, shown here, was later deleted but the perfidy to which the CTU will stoop was there for all to see.
What’s the CTU’s real problem with going back to work? Everything, which is pretty much their usual answer. “Everything about what they are doing is wrong,” said CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates. Most everything about the schools, Chicago and America is rotten, they routinely say in contract negotiations and elsewhere, so they want everything changed.
So they’re now seeking an injunction against opening Chicago schools. Their demands are based on supposed safety issues. They want safety protocols, personal protective equipment, COVID-19 screening, testing, contact tracing, vaccination, a nurse in every school, smaller classes that allow for social distancing, social and emotional supports for traumatized students, and upgrades to make ventilation safe.
That’s pointless hogwash. The risk to teachers is infinitesimal. Even if one gets infected with coronavirus, the chances of survival are 99.98% according to the Center for Disease Control for those under age 60, which is almost all Chicago teachers. Seventy-seven percent of them, in fact, are under 50. Those who are older or have known comorbidities would be allowed to teach remotely or given another accommodation, which is common for schools that have reopened.
And for students, the risk is near zero — 99.9997% survival rate for those under age 20, if they get infected. Four have died from the virus in Chicago.
“At no time has the CDC suggested school should be closed,” said CDC director Robert Redfield last month. “…All school should remain open. It is the safest place for children to be,” he said. “It’s safe to keep schools open,” said Dr. Daniel Johnson, chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Chicago Medical Center. And “the vast majority of public and private schools in the Chicago area that have reopened in some capacity this fall have had little confirmed exposure to the coronavirus in the past month,” according to a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of state data.
There’s only one challenging circumstance, and that’s where students live in an extended family with elderly relatives who face serious risk. But school could be used to educate children in those families about how to reduce that risk, and those children are probably exposing those families with or without school. That education has been lacking in messaging from health authorities, and fixing that is part of the “focused protection” advocated by a growing number of experts, which we’ve written often about.
What, instead of the virus, is killing kids? Homicide has killed 25-times more Chicago youth since the start of the pandemic. And fifteen suicides — nearly four times the number killed by the virus. Instead of being in school, kids are on the street and sinking deeper into despair.
It’s all falling most heavily on minorities.
Remember above all else that not all Chicago teachers support the CTU, though a majority apparently do. Those that don’t include many who are living saints. But those who stand in the schoolhouse door should be gone.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.
Read more about COVID-19 in Illinois:
- 25 times more Chicago youth have died from homicide than from COVID
- Illinois still fails its elderly, veterans as COVID deaths hit record highs
- Support for school reopenings grows across the political spectrum
- The right COVID policy for Illinois? Obsess about the elderly and infirm.
- Every Illinois school parent, teacher should know these COVID-19 facts
- Illinois’ own COVID-19 data reveals the state’s coronavirus policy is upside down