Years of mismanagement, student neglect comes as charter operator wins $3 million in federal COVID support, fails to invest in special education or critical student needs.

CHICAGO, May 26, 2021 — Urban Prep charter schools has been plagued by mismanagement for years, even as the operator has dragged on negotiating a contract with three unionized Urban Prep schools since 2018. The employer, for example, has twice missed timely payment of its payroll — an unprecedented and incomprehensible failure, since CPS certainly never missed payment of the funds Urban Prep should have been using for payroll.

Now those educators are considering job actions — including a possible strike.

UP receives the same per pupil funding as every other CPS and charter school, and the operator has also lined up $3.1 million in additional PPP funds during the pandemic — funds intended for salaries and service provision. Yet the school communities have seen virtually no investment in classrooms, educators or students.

Instead, for three years, Urban Prep has been dragging out contract negotiations with dozens of workers at the schools. Management has refused to agree to sanctuary school language that protects undocumented students and family members, and rejects language that would hold the operator to meeting federal requirements for special needs students. Management is offering workers a paltry 1% raise that is effectively a pay cut, since the inflation rate for 2018-20 is 5.5%.

Urban Prep educators earn the lowest scale in any unionized school in Chicago, with starting pay over $11,000 less than at CPS, and the gap widening the longer teachers remain. Working and learning conditions are so challenging that few do, creating dangerous instability for the schools’ overwhelmingly young Black male students.

“Urban Prep has chronically failed to provide the staffing and the services that students — particularly special education students — deserve and are legally mandated under federal law,” said Chris Baehrend, chair of the CTU’s charter division. “Every other charter operator has agreed to some form of our contractual demand that those services be provided. CPS has also substantially increased its level of support for diverse learners — yet Urban Prep management has failed to invest those supports into special education services for students. That’s wrong — and our students and the educators who serve them deserve better.”

CTU rank and file educators at the three schools — Englewood, Bronzeville and West — expect to vote on a job action later this week.

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