Amendment 1 would give teachers unions more power over students’ health

Amendment 1 would give teachers unions more power over students’ health

The number of students enrolling in Chicago Public Schools continues to fall as teachers’ unions impose COVID-19 policies and infringe on parents’ choices about their childrens’ health and safety. A ballot proposal would make that worse.

Teachers’ unions already exert more power in Illinois over students’ health and safety than parents or school administrators, but that might grow if voters approve a union plan to enshrine their powers in the state constitution.

Already, Illinois teachers unions have some of the most extreme powers in the nation. They proved that with their influence over delaying returns to in-person learning and by keeping students masked following initial COVID-19 school closures.

Now, the constitutional change on the Nov. 8 ballot seeks to give teachers unions more power than state law. It is an example of special interest groups having a louder voice in the lives of Illinois children than their own parents or elected lawmakers. The change is called Amendment 1, and would grant Illinois public workers union bosses powers that no other state allows them.

Besides the health and safety issues, teachers unions, such as the Chicago Teachers Union, are scaring parents with myths about a teacher shortage, despite data suggesting otherwise. Across Illinois, the number of public school teachers is rising. Meanwhile, the number of students enrolled in public schools is decreasing.

Illinois parents have already expressed concern over public schools by leaving the public education system. From 2021 to 2022, Illinois saw a 3.5% decrease in public student enrollment. This trend has been consistent during the past decade and especially in Chicago Public Schools, Illinois’ largest public school district, where nearly 80,000 students have left the district since 2010.

Simultaneously, the number of teachers in Illinois is rising, despite claims by teachers unions, including the Chicago Teachers Union, about a teacher shortage. CTU even secured a $35 million per year package to fund class size relief following their 11-day strike in 2019. Although CTU was not legally allowed to strike over class size prior to 2021, the union leveraged its power and refused to agree on wages and benefits until class size relief had been addressed.

Following the passage of Gov. J.B Pritzker’s House Bill 2275 in 2021, CTU has a mandatory right to bargain over class size. Taxpayers are held responsible to pay for any demands included in its collective bargaining agreements.

If Amendment 1 passes this November, CTU will have even more leverage. Because of the broad language in the proposed amendment, unions such as CTU will have bargaining rights over virtually anything. Its broad language guarantees the right to bargain over “safety at work,” which includes provisions such as COVID-19 policies.

This language allows teachers unions to take away parents’ and school administrators’ voices on what is best for the health, safety and learning environment of their children. In January 2022, CTU went on a five-day strike over COVID-19 issues.

Now, delegates of the National Education Association, the national affiliate of one of Illinois’ largest teachers unions, called for mandatory masking, vaccinations and remote learning options for the coming school year. Those demands contradict the expertise of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which moved to optional masking in schools in spring 2022.

Continued remote learning and enforcing strict COVID-19 policies against the judgment of the CDC will continue to contribute to the decreasing number of public school students in Illinois and across the country. In 2020, more than 1 million students nationwide did not enroll in public school.

Illinois saw a decrease of 12.4% of its kindergarteners at public schools since the 2019-2020 school year. For many of these families, the intense COVID-19 restrictions, such as remote learning and masking for young children, compelled parents to move their children to private schools or to home-school them.

Not only is mandatory masking of children no longer recommended by the CDC to prevent disease, but masking can have adverse effects on students’ learning. This is especially true among children with cognitive delays, speech and hearing issues, and autism. According to teachers, parents and speech pathologists, mandatory masks make learning particularly difficult for these students.

If Amendment 1 passes on Nov. 8, CTU would be given more power and its collective bargaining agreements could trump state law, giving union bosses more power than elected leaders and even parents. Amendment 1 would also allow union bosses to strike over more issues. Given the past two years of remote and hybrid learning, children cannot afford to miss more days in the classroom.

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