Union also files unfair labor practice charge against management, which has dragged out contract negotiations for three years as boss starves special education, classroom needs.

CHICAGO, May 27, 2021 — Rank and file CTU members at three Urban Prep charter schools voted unanimously to strike on Thursday night. Members expect to set a strike date in the coming days. The CTU also filed an unfair labor practice charge against management of the charters on Thursday, for a range of abuses, including playing hide the ball with critical financial and other information.

CTU members began bargaining a contract with Urban Prep in November 2018, with key demands including better supports for special education students and more classroom resources. Urban Prep educators have the lowest wages and the highest health care costs among Chicago charter operators. At the same time, 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.

For three years, management has refused to even offer wages that keep pace with inflation, instead offering workers a 1% total raise for the last three years above the wages educators were earning in 2018. The inflation rate for 2018-20 is 5.5%.

Urban Prep charter schools receive the same per-pupil funding as every other CPS and charter school, and the operator also has received over $3 million in PPP pandemic funds for salaries and services. Yet the schools have been mismanaged for years, with the boss twice missing payroll, even though those funds come directly from CPS.

Urban Prep educators are at the bottom of the pay scale among unionized Chicago schools, with starting pay over $11,000 less than at CPS, and the gulf increasing the longer an educator stays at the charter. Turnover is extremely high, creating dangerous instability for the schools’ overwhelmingly young Black male students.

“Urban Prep has the resources to do right by our students and the educators who serve them — and we will strike if we must to move those resources into our schools,” said Chris Baehrend, chair of the CTU’s charter division. “Urban Prep students deserve the special education services that are mandated by federal law, and our school communities deserve the resources our young people need.”

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.