Chicago Teacher’s Union Proposes Door-Knocking Program for Paid Members to Discuss COVID Risk with Families

Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates speaks before a march in Chicago, Ill.,. June 24, 2020.
(Max Herman/Reuters)

During an appearance on CBS News, Chicago Teacher’s Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates announced the union’s proposal for a summer door-knocking program in which paid members would engage families in the school district about in-person learning “hesitancy.”

In response to the host’s question about students and parents who are “uncomfortable returning to in person learning,” Gates said that the Chicago Teacher’s Union is piloting a door-knocking program to better understand their concerns.

“There are worries, there are concerns and anxieties that are being addressed by our mayor and our school district,” Gates said.

She suggested that the COVID funding package allocated to Chicago public schools be diverted to family “engagement” and discussing COVID risk.

“Here in Chicago our public school system has received almost 2 billion dollars for COVID relief. What we need to do is make sure those funds fund the recovery, fund engagement, ensure that the families who have suffered the most under this pandemic, black families, brown families, have the ability to recover and are heard in this process,” Gates remarked.

Teachers unions and school administrations have cited parents’ safety fears over exposing their children to COVID as the reasoning for delayed re-opening. However, in cities like Los Angeles, parents are opting to keep kids home to avoid sending them to a de facto daycare, since many teachers are still working remotely and have not yet returned to the classroom.

The Chicago teachers’ union voted in January to reject the city’s reopening date, demanding that its members continue to work remotely until all of the city’s instructors have been vaccinated. The implication was that students could still be out of the classroom as late Spring 2022.

Teacher’s unions have blocked re-opening efforts nationwide, even as academic performance suffers, a youth mental health crisis grows, and women exit the labor force in droves to support their children’s schooling. Evidence corroborated by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that the coronavirus poses minimal risk for young people and that school transmission is low.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the nation’s largest teacher’s unions, influenced the CDC February guidelines on reopening schools, the New York Post discovered.

The CDC was preparing to allow all schools to resume in-person instruction regardless of the rate of community spread of COVID-19. But then AFT senior director for health issues Kelly Trautner objected and requested that new language be incorporated.

“In the event of high community-transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary,” Trautner’s suggestion read. The AFT also lobbied for exemptions from in-person teaching for immunocompromised faculty more prone to health complications from the disease, as well as staff with a family member at high risk for COVID-19.

These language recommendations were adopted into the CDC’s released guidance on school reopening.

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