CHICAGO — On Wednesday evening, union educators and art instructors at Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) reached a tentative agreement with the school’s board of directors on a new four-year contract that will center the needs of the scholar-artists, students and their families who live at the core of the school’s mission.
“As an alumnus of ChiArts, I know firsthand the benefits of marrying arts and academic learning, and this deal shows what’s possible when educators have a voice in forging a better way forward at our schools,” said Jordyn Birden, a music teacher at ChiArts for 2 years. “We shouldn’t have to be starving artists to teach the next generation of artists. This contract, once ratified, will recognize the craft, artistry and dedication that we bring to campus each day and how it shapes the future of our scholar artists.”
With meaningful improvements in resources and substantial investments in art instruction, the agreement marks a significant step forward in ensuring that ChiArts classrooms are high-quality places for learning. This historic four-year collective bargaining agreement includes the following provisions:
- Staffing guarantees: Student-to-counselor ratio of 250:1, full-time social worker by next year (in addition to the additional guidance counselors); and a full-time certified nursing assistant.
- Special Education and bilingual services: a commitment from management to provide services for every student entitled to them, including caseload limits in special education classrooms.
- Protections for part-time teaching artists who will for the first time receive paid preparation time for the countless hours they work outside their instructional hours.
- Restoration of the arts day that management had just cut by 30% and ensuring a voice of teaching artists as well as students and families in direction of the school going forward.
- A commitment to diversity and inclusion training for educators, support personnel and school administrators.
- A commitment to make ChiArts a Sanctuary School, where all students can learn freely no matter their color, creed or citizenship status.
- A pledge from school leadership to provide adequate protections for students and staff that belong to the LGBTQIA+ community.
- And, a considerable increase in educator salaries and benefits to buttress the impacts of inflation and ensure that ChiArts can continue to recruit and retain highly qualified educators on par with Chicago Public Schools—a move that will also improve the learning experience for students.
“I’m proud of the work we did to make sure that ChiArts provides bilingual and special education services to every kid who needs them,” said Jennifer Peppers, a science teacher who’s worked at ChiArts for four years. “These staffing commitments will improve the school day and learning experience for some of our most vulnerable students.”
She continued, “Getting to this historic agreement wasn’t easy, but when we started this process we knew what we were fighting for. We were fighting forward for our students, who deserve every resource we can provide to help them pursue their dreams. Through this agreement, our classroom can become a place for students to learn, aspire, dream and achieve.”
With the tentative agreement now in place, ChiArts educators will have a chance to review and ratify the agreement over the next few days.