Acute shortages of supports for special education students, English language learners highlight chronic lack of resources while charters’ statewide lobby group advocates for right-wing candidates.

  • 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19: Rank-and-file CTU charter members to picket, rally at Acero Idar, 5050 S. Homan for end to chronic and unsustainable under-staffing

CHICAGO — As charter school operators across the city are under fire for bankrolling right-wing politicians who support a racist legislative agenda that harms the mostly Black and Brown students the schools serve, CTU charter members are rallying for supportive, safe and sustainable charter schools.

On Wednesday at 5:00 p.m., rank-and-file charter school educators will hold a picket and rally outside Acero Idar, 5050 S. Homan, to kick off a coordinated contract campaign negotiating union agreements with 13 different charter operators across the city.

Members will attend the Acero board meeting after the gathering to raise their concerns about chronic unmet student needs.

The rally comes on the heels of the exposure of INCS — the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, the charter industry’ statewide lobby group — for opposing historic criminal justice reforms on behalf of a right-wing, anti-abortion Republican state house candidate. The Illinois Legislature passed those reforms, known as the SAFE-T Act, in the spring.

CTU members in charter schools report critical understaffing that denies students the services and support they need, while operator funds go to political activities — activities opposed to the interests of charter students — instead of the classroom. CTU educators are also demanding contract language jointly committing the Union and management to sanctuary protections in the schools for both students and educators. Some charter operators are still rejecting any discussions of items such as sanctuary and student restorative justice programs, taking the position that they aren’t interested in bargaining over anything but wages, benefits and legally mandated working conditions — even as students struggle with the chronic lack of those resources.

In the wake of the pandemic, charter students need more support than ever. Schools face a critical shortage of special education teachers and paraprofessionals, bilingual teachers, social workers, counselors and trauma supports to meet the needs of the diverse array of students who attend charters.

“We want our charter schools to be safe, loving environments for all of our students,” said Jen Conant, chair of the CTU Charter division. “Our students need and deserve more academic intervention but they also need a huge amount of social and emotional support. Those resources work hand in hand, and they just don’t exist in most of our schools today.”

This year, CTU contracts are expiring with 13 charter operators, representing 35 different schools. The union has launched a ground-breaking strategy to coordinate bargaining at all 13 operators in an effort to increase leverage and win historic resources for students and sustainable pay and benefits for educators.

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