This summer and fall, all of our CTU charter contracts expire, giving us an opportunity to transform the landscape of education and address the trauma of an ongoing pandemic. We are fighting for supportive, safe and sustainable schools, as the first phase of a CTU-wide contract campaign. Negotiating our contract with the district is phase two of the contract fight for the schools our students deserve. Our wins in the charter space will greatly influence and impact our ability to win big things in district negotiations. Let’s stand in solidarity together to fight for better schools.

We are fighting for supportive, safe, sustainable schools

We know that, given the effects of the pandemic, our students need more support now than ever. We need more special education teachers and paraprofessionals, more bilingual teachers, and full time ELPTs to meet the needs of our diverse array of students. We also need more one-on-one attention for our students as they are recovering from the pandemic-induced trauma and struggling to succeed academically.

In short, our students both need and deserve more social-emotional and academic support – and providing them with social workers, counselors, nurses, academic and behavioral interventionists is essential in every school. Our students also deserve loving spaces that celebrate their creativity and energy. To do that, students need access to arts and sports opportunities, including more specials and elective teachers.

We also need to recruit and retain more educators of color in many of our charter networks. Our students need to see themselves represented in our staff. We want a commitment from management to diversifying staff and to providing quality professional development that helps to retain educators of color and that helps educators deliver culturally relevant curricula.

Our schools must provide safe and loving environments for all of our students. Safety involves winning contract language that takes the pandemic into account and mitigates risks. We also know that we are living in an age of mass shootings and gun violence. We must establish emergency preparedness policies that keep our communities safe and policies that get our students help when they need it.

We need a restorative response to violence, not only to heal but to prevent violence in the future. Instead of using only punitive, reactive disciplinary measures, we need to be proactive in teaching students how to work through their emotions. We cannot keep our school communities safe without specific protocols, supportive staff, and loving environments in which students can thrive.

Our schools should also be places where staff can thrive and develop a lifelong career. Unfortunately, the charter school model overworks and underpays staff, a system that is not sustainable. The turnover and instability this creates is bad for everyone: the workers who cannot afford to stay and the students who need and deserve the better education that is only possible with experienced educators who are able to make a long-term commitment to their school.

To provide a sustainable work environment, our charter members need quality health insurance, maternity and paternity leave that support growing families, and working conditions that do not burn out educators in a couple of years. Unfortunately, the charter model also often packs as many students into a classroom as possible. Given the growing needs of our students, it is impossible to serve students well in this environment.

United to Raise Standards Citywide

In our charter negotiations, we are working to set industry standards not only in the charter space, but across the city. What happens in the charter space will directly affect negotiations with CPS district-run schools. Winning better compensation in charter schools will create upward pressure on the district to improve pay for staff in its schools.  Likewise, poor compensation will incentivize CPS to lowball pay in our upcoming negotiations with the district. The same holds true for other working conditions. For example, our ability to win additional class size limits in charter schools will affect whether the district feels pressure to limit class sizes as well.

About 20 CTU members from UNO/Acero charter schools pose together with signs at the  announcement of their 2018 strike date.

Acero teachers pose after setting a strike date during 2018 contract negotiations.

Part one of our CTU-wide charter campaign kicked off this summer with the expiration of our charter contracts. Negotiations for new contracts are happening at 13 charter networks, comprising 35 schools across the city. We represent educators at Acero, Aspira, Association House, Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts, which is a contract school), Christopher House, CICS schools managed by Civitas Education Partners, EPIC, Instituto, Latino Youth, Namaste, Passages, Urban Prep, and YCLA.

The union’s contract with CPS expires in 2024.

Together, CTU rank and file members in both charter schools and district schools continue to demand the schools our students need and deserve. Our charter contract fights in 2018 helped set the stage for the 2019 district contract that won gains that include more social workers and school nurses – along with living wages for PSRPs in district schools. As we stand together through phase one – our charter members’ fight for better working and learning conditions – we strengthen the efforts of us all to ensure that every public school in Chicago is liberatory, loving and fully resourced.