Unionized charter school teachers and support staff at over 30 schools with 13 different operators launch unified contract campaign to reduce desperate staff shortages, strengthen affordable health care for workers, stabilize schools.

  • 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, May 17: Rally, press availability with rank and file CTU charter educators, officers, allies. CPS headquarters, 42 W. Madison, Chicago
  • NEW DATE! 7:00 a.m. Thursday, May 19: Haines elementary school protest/walk-in against CPS budget cuts, 247 W. 23rd Place. RESCHEDULED from Wednesday to Thursday.

CHICAGO — Chicago’s publicly funded charter school operators have seen budgets swell with federal pandemic relief funds – but at a time of exploding student need, those funds aren’t being directed to address needs on the ground, with acute shortfalls in bilingual and special education, student social/emotional supports and more. Mayor Lightfoot’s CPS team, which claws back a few percentages of the public dollars it distributes to charter operators to bankroll ‘oversight’, has failed to ensure that operators are investing relief funds in those operators’ school communities.

The CTU’s Unionized charter school educators will join CTU officers, fellow CTU members and allies at a press conference and rally at 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17 at CTU headquarters, located at 42 W. Madison, to demand that CPS exercise responsible oversight of charter operators – grounded in accountability and real equity – and ensure that both federal COVID relief funds and ALL public dollars are supporting charter students and school communities.

While Lightfoot’s CPS team has portioned out federal COVID relief to charter operators, those operators have failed to invest those federal relief funds in school communities. The pattern is much the same in the District, where the mayor’s hand-picked board is hoarding roughly $1.4 billion in unallocated federal COVID funds – and another $400 million in unexpended COVID relief funds from this year. While charter operators deprive their students of COVID supports, CPS has proposed slashing at least $60 million from district school communities already hammered by both COVID and years of austerity under mayors Daley, Emanuel and Lightfoot.

Contracts are expiring for CTU members at over 30 schools run by 13 different charter operators, and rank and file educators and staff have united to demand that management address desperate shortages of staff and resources that students critically need.

Despite a growing influx of funds since Illinois made it’s school funding formula equity-based in 2017 – and the flood of COVID relief dollars from CPS – wages in charters have continued to lag those in district schools, driving churn and school instability just as students most need supports as the nation enters the third year of the pandemic.

Some of the most egregious understaffing in charters is happening in the delivery of special education and bilingual services, with operators flouting federal laws requiring these services for students at the same time they get special funding simply to provide special education services.

Other abuses abound. One network, the YCCS network – ostensibly dedicated to serving Chicago’s alternative students, a population with the highest incidence of trauma, disability, poverty and experienced discrimination in the city – is apparently not passing on any of the mayor’s CPS COVID recovery funds to the management organizations that directly provide all of the educational services in their alternative schools. Instead of adding staff to help this acutely needy population recover from the pandemic in a stable and supportive school community, at least one YCCS campus is laying off a third of the teaching staff.

Educators in unionized charters schools are committed public servants and practitioners of the public good – and Tuesday’s rally will publicly launch their struggle to defend their students against operator exploitation and raise standards for teaching and learning for students in their school communities.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.