On the second day after coming back to school for the year, the Chicago Teachers Union voted to refuse to teach in-person on the following day. This late-night decision left the school district scrambling to adjust plans, and working parents were left wondering what they were supposed to do with their children the next day. One mom named Tonya Patterson was quoted as saying, “I understand they want to be safe, but I have to work. I don’t understand why they are so special.” Those words were echoed in chorus by parents throughout the Chicago area who themselves had to go to work and wondered why teachers were unwilling to do the same.
In Patterson’s case, she was forced to drop her child off at school even though classes were not being taught. Some school employees who were kind enough to actually come to work were providing emergency child care for desperate parents. While I applaud these employees who had the courage to do what is right when 90% of their colleagues were not doing the same, I can’t help but wonder if the union realized exactly what their callous decision would mean. For those schools providing emergency childcare, it is likely that there was even more person-to-person contact than if students had all been seated at their own desks for regular classes. Refusing to teach in-person did not keep people safe from Covid. It only made the virus spread around daycares rather than the classrooms. If you think illness spreads more slowly in daycares than in schools, you are sorely mistaken.
It all comes back to what Tonya Patterson said. “I have to work. I don’t understand why they are so special.” Teachers unions need to learn a lesson themselves. They should take shutdowns and remote so-called “learning” off the table. The rest of the world is going back to work. We aren’t going to shut down again. Any elected official who supports keeping healthy kids stuck at home is very quickly going to be stuck at home themselves when they lose their job in the next election cycle.