The Biden White House has found itself stuck between a rock and a hard place, according to a new report from the Washington Examiner.
The rock, in this scenario, is the Chicago Teachers Union, and the hard place is Chicago’s public schools.
The Chicago Teachers Union, for the past week, has been on strike.
Last Tuesday night, the union voted to return to remote learning claiming that in-school learning is not safe at the moment because of the latest surge of the coronavirus. The problem for the Chicago Teachers Union, however, is that Chicago Public Schools don’t want to return to remote learning. They want to proceed with in-person learning.
As a result of this dispute, classes have been canceled because teachers, following union guidance, have not been showing up to work.
Negotiations have been taking place between the two sides. The negotiations have included Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D). And, based on the Examiner’s latest report, the Biden White House has also been in communication about the matter with Pritzker and Lightfoot.
The problem for President Joe Biden, here, as stated at the outset, is that it’s difficult for him to pick one side or the other.
We all know how he and his administration are beholden to unions, such as the Chicago Teachers Union. But, at the same time, Biden also claims to be in favor of keeping schools open.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was pressed on the situation on Monday.
We have been very clear, publicly and privately, that we want to see schools open, that the president fought for additional assistance in the American Rescue Plan, $130 billion, including $5 billion that went to Illinois, $10 billion that went to testing across the country to ensure we were prepared and had resources needed to address whatever may come up in the pandemic. The president’s view is that schools should be open across the country, and more than 95% are, across the country, that the mental health impact on kids of not having schools open is very harsh and hard, and he does not want to see schools closed across the country.
As for the concerns of the Chicago Teachers Union, Psaki had this to say:
We’ve prioritized teachers getting vaccinated first. We fought for — the president fought for an enormous amount of funding to ensure that schools and classrooms and teachers could take steps that could put in place mitigation measures to make sure students, school teachers, and members of school communities are safe. And I think what I’m echoing is what a number of people in the public health community have conveyed, that those measures can make sure that schools are safe and ensure people attending school are safe. But we are in a very different place than we were earlier this year. It’s important for people to be mindful of the mental health impact on kids, something that of course many parents across the country feel very strongly about.
So, it looks like the Biden administration would prefer for the members of the Chicago Teachers Union to get back to work. Psaki, however, refused to say, directly, that the Chicago Teachers Union ought to end its strike.