Management again refuses to move on key demands at Monday eve. bargaining session, forcing teachers, paraprofessionals to set strike date as movement for charter reform grows.
CHICAGO—After another frustrating and fruitless bargaining session Monday evening, Chicago Teachers Union educators at 15 UNO/Acero schools are readying for the first strike of a charter operator in the nation’s history. Educators will announce a strike date at a 7AM news conference Wednesday, Nov. 14, just before the school day begins, at 4248 W. 47th St., a multi-campus site that houses an Acero high school and two Acero elementary schools.
CTU educators want to remain in the classroom, but are determined to strike if that’s what it takes to win a fair contract that supports teachers, paraprofessionals and the students they serve. While negotiations have continued after UNO/Acero educators voted overwhelmingly last month to authorize a strike, Monday evening’s bargaining session again produced no substantive progress, forcing the union to set the strike date.
Unionized CTU charter educators are pushing for reform across the charter industry, part of their effort to defend public school children against operators’ practice of siphoning millions of public dollars away from classrooms and into the pockets of executives and management companies.
More than 500 unionized UNO/Acero teachers and paraprofessionals work a longer day and longer year than educators in district-run schools, but earn less, despite an additional 8 percent funding boost charters get from public dollars. Teachers are demanding equal pay for equal work and additional resources for their classrooms and their students.
Educators are also fighting for smaller class sizes, increased special education funding, and more autonomy over curriculum and grading to foster professional respect and retain experienced teachers. Staff turnover is an enormous problem in the charter network’s schools. Educators are also demanding better compensation and treatment of paraprofessionals, who remain at the bottom of the pay scale despite the essential role they play in supporting school communities.
Union educators are also demanding true sanctuary schools for their overwhelmingly Latinx students, and more diversity in the workforce, which has virtually no Latinx teachers in a charter network that serves overwhelmingly Latinx students. Management could remedy that lack of diversity, say educators, by providing paraprofessionals—who management call ‘apprentices’—with a supportive path to the role of classroom teachers.
While management has refused demands for fair compensation and classroom resources, the charter operator has no trouble bankrolling bloated management and executive salaries. Acero CEO Richard Rodriguez earns over $260,000 a year to manage a system with just 8,000 students. That’s more than the CPS CEO makes to manage a system of over 350,000 students.
When the scandal-plagued UNO chater network rebranded as Acero, it promised more transparency and better management practices—both of which remain in desperately short supply today, say educators.
The CTU’s president and the board of its Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (CTU-ACTS) must approve a final decision to strike, but the decision clearly rests with Acero management who have the means to avoid a walk out. Although the charter operator is subsidized with hundreds of millions in city tax dollars, along with millions more in state school funding, it has balked at teacher proposals to devote more public dollars to the classroom. And the operator has dragged its feet at the bargaining table for months, leaving the union no choice but to set a strike date.