Chicago, IL

The White House weighs in on Chicago schools: 'Long story short we want schools to be open'

Jennifer Geer

Chicago Public Schools are on their second day of canceled classes as district officials fail to reach an agreement with the teacher's union

(CHICAGO) The White House has weighed in on the conflict between the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and district officials. The opinion of the White House: Schools can be open safely for in-person learning, and students should be in the classrooms.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said to reporters during a briefing on Wednesday, "Long story short we want schools to be open, the president wants them to be open, and we’re going to continue to use every resource and work to ensure that’s the case."

Chicago schools are canceled for the second day in a row after the CTU voted on Tuesday night to go remote for at least the next two weeks to give the district time to implement more Covid mitigations.

The Biden Administration passed the American Rescue Plan last year to provide resources to public schools to be able to open safely. "The President and our administration foresaw early on that schools across the country would need additional resources," said Psaki during the briefing. "That’s why he fought for $130 billion in the American Rescue Plan for funding to schools to implement mitigation strategies, including $10 billion in — for testing, which has already been distributed to states."

Chicago students were provided with Covid tests over winter break to return before starting school on Monday. But it was reported that thousands of the tests were deemed, "invalid." Due to a delay in delivery, the union said in a statement that many test kits were spoiled.

The CTU tweeted a photo of an overflowing FedEx bin (presumably filled with test kits) saying, "Our district received $2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds. Of that, just $100 million was spent on CPS upgrades. And this was the outcome of Mayor Lightfoot's plan for COVID testing over the holidays."

CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates told Politico that CTU does not blame the White House for the problems, "The Biden administration has done everything that they were supposed to do, and we agree with them completely. The failure is with implementation. The failure is with administration."

Negotiations between the district officials and the CTU are ongoing. Mayor Lightfoot tweeted to the union on Wednesday, "We are ready to work with you and restore our children’s access to the education they deserve.

As for whether schools will be open on Friday, according to a letter sent to parents obtained by the Chicago Tribune, it will be on a school-by-school basis. "Some schools have enough staff reporting to work to return to in-person instruction as soon as Friday. Other schools have more limited capacity, and may provide learning packets and other materials for students to use during this illegal work stoppage.”

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Jennifer covers lifestyle content and local news for the Chicago area. New articles published each weekday.

Chicago, IL

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