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The Editors

Democrats Need to Break the Grip of Teachers Unions

Saving the country’s students requires Joe Biden and other party leaders to show whose side they’re really on.

Mr. President, open this gate.

Mr. President, open this gate.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Although a strike by the Chicago Teachers Union thankfully ended this week, the damage has been done. The unlawful walkout exposed an indifference not just to science but to the emotional and academic well-being of more than 340,000 schoolchildren. It also showed why President Joe Biden and other Democratic leaders need to break the grip of teachers unions over the country’s public schools — or risk irreversible damage to the students who can afford it least.

The refusal of Chicago’s teachers to show up to classrooms had forced the city to close all public schools for four days, until a deal was reached on Monday. Union leaders had demanded that the district revert to virtual learning until Jan. 18, and to close all schools again if Covid cases didn’t subside. Mayor Lori Lightfoot had offered to meet some union demands, but rightly refused to bend on calls for schools to shut down altogether if Covid cases exceeded a certain benchmark, pointing out that kids were safer in schools than out of them. Although full details won’t be known until the union’s full membership votes on the deal later this week, early reports suggest the mayor has agreed to set metrics that would trigger a return to remote learning for individual schools.