United StatesIllinois

Teacher unions at odds over in-person instruction this fall

Sarah Marton, para-professional at Niles Township District for Special Education, left, talks with her son Cooper Marton, an 8th grader at Disney II Magnet School, while her son studies school work with his computer at his home in Chicago, Tuesday, March 17, 2020. 

(The Center Square) – Illinois’ school-age kids are weeks from returning for the fall semester and the state’s teacher unions are not on the same page about whether school districts should open for in-person instruction or online-only education.

One leader “hopes” it doesn’t come to a statewide strike situation.

The Illinois Education Association announced last Tuesday that it sides with the view of public health officials that schools should offer in-person learning for students when it can be done safely.

“The IEA believes, as do health experts, that it would be best for students to be learning in an in-person school environment when at all possible,” Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin said. “No one wants to return to school more than those who have chosen education as their profession, but it is also professional educators who understand better than anyone the impact a contagious disease can have on a school population.”

The Illinois Federation of Teachers, a state-based chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, disagrees.

“Our recommendation is schools should return to online or remote learning for the beginning of the school year,” IFT President Dan Montgomery said Monday. “That is the safest and best option.”

When asked if a statewide strike was possible, Montgomery said educators would like to avoid that.

“We hope it doesn’t have to come to that,” Montgomery said. “We’re encouraging our unions to work with their districts to get this right.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked on Monday about schools reopening in the fall for in-person learning.

“They’ve got to have a kind of hybrid plan or at least the ability for kids who can’t go to school because they have immunosuppression or something else or they have someone in their own home who has an immunocompromised system, that they have the ability to learn over the internet,” the governor said.

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