- 10AM TODAY, Saturday, 2/16: Operation PUSH with CICS strikers
930 E. 50th St., Chicago
- 4PM Tuesday, 2/19: CICS quarterly public board meeting
11 E. Adams St., Chicago. AFT President Randi Weingarten to join strikers, allies.
Lead sponsors of state’s historic 2017 school funding reform legislation call on CICS to abide by funding law and settle contract. As strike ends second week, Sen. Duckworth, state legislators meet with strikers and pledge solidarity—and bargaining team again rejects trading raises for cuts to student services.
CHICAGO—Friday marked the end of the second week of an historic strike of teachers and paraprofessionals at four charter schools controlled by CICS, Chicago International Charter Schools—as a growing group of elected officials are calling on the charter operator and its CEO, Elizabeth Shaw, to settle a fair contract with educators.
Bargaining broke off at 6PM Friday with management continuing to insist that educators, some of whom earn barely $30,000/year, trade any raise for cuts to student services—a ‘trade’ that educators continue to reject. Bargaining resumes today, and educators, parents and allies to are mobilizing at 4PM on Tuesday for CICS’ quarterly board meeting.
Strikers will also be at Operation Push at 10 AM today, where Rev. Jesse Jackson will hand out groceries for educators. On Thursday, Jackson joined educators to demand that management settle the contract, just hours after the City Council Latino Caucus wrote to CICS CEO Elizabeth Shaw, calling management’s failure to reach a fair agreement ‘shameful’.
Strikers are also fanning out from 10AM to 2PM today in Logan Square, where Shaw and CICS board president Laura Thonn live, to flier local residents about CICS’ refusal to settle the contract.
On Friday, State Senator Andy Manar and State Representative Will Davis, key architects of the state’s landmark new school funding formula, SB 1947, sent a letter to Shaw and CICS outlining SB 1947’s key provisions—and their concern that CICS was not following the provisions of the law.
“We have seen the press coverage of your network’s large management fees, resistance to class size reductions, increases in administration and management numbers and salaries, and forced trade-offs between wraparound supports and staff benefits,” they wrote. “These decisions violate the spirit of the new funding model and deny students the services they deserve… We call on you to abide by the new funding law and settle the strike.”
The letter from Manar and Davis lays out their assessment that CICS has more than adequate funding in hand to settle the strike. That letter comes days after strikers filed a formal complaint with the Illinois Attorney General about CICS’ shady finances, from insider deals and cash hoarding to exploding corporate positions and outrageous management fees that siphon off up to 30% of the public funds the operator receives to educate children.
On Friday afternoon, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth met with striking educators at the offices of the Chicago Teachers Union, along with State Senators Ram Villivilam (8) and Jacqueline Collins (16) and State Rep. Mary Flowers (31). All pledged their support to the strikers and their struggle for educational justice for their students.
Last week, over a dozen elected officials and progressive candidates joined strikers at a picket of the charter industry’s lobby, INCS, which has backed CICS’ dawdling at the bargaining table. “Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions—and both need to improve at CICS,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
On Wednesday, striking educators occupied the downtown lobby of PriceWaterhouseCooper, where Thonn is a partner, until PwC agreed to accept a letter to Thonn demanding a settlement. Strikers also attempted to deliver a letter directly to CICS and INCS co-founder and board member David Chizewer at his offices at law firm Goldberg Kohn on Friday.
CICS management has continued to drag its heels on releasing even a modest portion of over $36 million in hoarded public education dollars the charter operator has siphoned out of classrooms. The strike could be settled by investing just a fraction of those funds, with strikers calling on CICS to roll back this year’s 25% hike in management fees, which cost classrooms an additional $1.2 million this year alone.
CICS has expanded six-figure positions for non-educational corporate staff four to 14 since 2017, while schools confront serious shortages in special education teachers, counselors and social workers, as well as facilities needs and working computer equipment for students.
Bargaining continues Saturday and through the weekend. Monday is a school holiday—and if there is no agreement by Tuesday, strikers and allies plan to attend CICS’ quarterly board meeting on Tuesday from 4-6 PM at CICS’ corporate offices at 11 E. Adams in downtown Chicago.