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Foolish feud between the CTU and Mayor Lightfoot is doing school kids like me no good

I will be forever grateful to dedicated teachers and administrators. But what has transpired between the mayor and the CTU over the past year is reprehensible.

Chicago Teachers Union tweet

Chicago is facing millions of dollars in damage to small businesses on the South and West sides, a global pandemic is killing a disturbing number of Chicagoans, and reforming police departments has shifted to the center of the national political discussion.

But the Chicago Teachers Union, claiming to have students’ best interests at heart, and a self-proclaimed “progressive” mayor have time to fight over an internet meme.

I’ve had enough.

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I am a graduating senior at Whitney Young High School. In the fall, I’ll be attending Yale University. I will be forever grateful to the dedicated teachers and administrators who have contributed to my education. But what has transpired between the mayor and the CTU over the past school year is reprehensible, and I hold both sides accountable.

Lightfoot and the CTU have been playing political games since the mayor’s election, with every battle coming at the expense of the students. When the 2019 teachers’ strike started, more than 300,000 students, myself included, were left at home while the mayor, the Chicago Public Schools and the CTU played a game of political chess.

The mayor complained that the city, already cash-strapped, was being extorted. The union sent out stories about teachers dealing with comically large classrooms and receiving peanuts in compensation. The union even managed to solicit a guest appearance from Elizabeth Warren. All of this was done “for the students.”

All the while, I and thousands of other high school seniors scrambled to complete college applications without the much-needed support of our teachers, parents of younger students were forced to find daycare on short notice, and kids who relied on their schools for safety and protection from troubling home situations and neighborhood violence became more vulnerable.

Even after a contract deal was reached, the jabs continued on both sides. When COVID-19 forced schools to close for the rest of the year, CPS and the CTU bickered over the remote learning plan. Meanwhile, students who did not have access to technology or internet service were left in the dark, literally.

The meme tweeted out by the CTU on Wednesday — in which Lighfoot, dressed in a police officer’s uniform, is portrayed as the villain in a “Scooby-Doo” story — is just the latest in a political battle that doesn’t seem to be ending any time soon. Lightfoot has compared this internet joke to a right-wing racist attack and questioned the character of the CTU leadership.

“It’s concerning to me because our young people are always watching,” Lightfoot said. “They’re always watching our leaders.”

Yes, Madam Mayor, we are watching, and boy, are we disappointed.

Caleb J. Dunson, Whitney Young High School graduating senior

Pelosi and open debate

What gives U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the right to remove portraits and statuary from the halls of the U.S. Capitol Building? Other congressional leaders are silent for fear of being attacked by the prevailing leftist mob. How sad. They are fearful of respectful discussion. What happened to free speech? Now people are told: “We will not allow you to think that way.”

John G. Brokopp, Brookfield

Ban flavored tobacco products

We applaud Ald. Matt O’Shea, Ald. Rod Sawyer and a growing number of cosponsors for introducing an ordinance that would end the sale of all flavored tobacco products in Chicago. The data is clear: Flavored tobacco products — from fruit punch to menthol and just about every flavor in between — are addicting kids at a terrifying rate. We will never achieve health equity or health justice in Chicago if we do not end tobacco’s grip on our kids, our neighbors and our city.

Smoking has emerged as a risk factor for severe coronavirus-related disease and death, and we have seen that play out here. The Chicago communities that bear a disproportionate burden of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths are also the communities that are at greatest risk for tobacco use. Ending the sale of all flavored tobacco products, including flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars, is a necessity if we are serious about protecting the health of all Chicagoans.

Dr Wayne Giles
Dean, University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health
Member of the American Heart Association Metro Chicago Board of Directors

Tell the stories of heroic police officers

How wonderful it would be to see any media outlet flood us with stories about the incredible, selfless acts of heroism that the vast majority of police officers perform every single day. The difficulty would be figuring out which of the myriad of stories to pick from.

Ray Lemieux, Hometown