• Press conference: 4:30PM Monday, March 11
    ChiArts High School, 2714 W. Augusta Blvd., Chicago

Teachers to rally to demand fair contract as CTU members mull strike at ChiArts, what would be first strike of a publicly funded contract school in U.S. history.

CHICAGO—Chicago’s charter schools have drawn increasing scrutiny for lack of transparency and accountability—forcing strikes against two different operators in the last four months. But CPS’ contract schools operate with even greater secrecy and less accountability, and educators in the CTU’s charter division are on the cusp of striking one of those contract schools—ChiArts, the Chicago High School of the Arts—in what would be the first strike against a publicly funded and overseen contract school in the nation’s history.

ChiArts teachers will hold a speak-out and press conference about their contract bargaining and the possibility of a strike on Monday, March 11 at 4:30PM at the ChiArts campus, located at 2714 W. Augusta Blvd. This action is in being held in conjunction with management’s board meeting—which management refuses to allow the public to attend.

Educators are demanding smaller class sizes, adequate classroom resources and equal pay for equal work with their peers in CPS.

ChiArts teachers’ current base salaries are 35% less on average than they would be in CPS—and 54% less than in CPS schools when retirement and pension contributions are factored in—even though educators teach the same public school students and the school is funded by CPS at the same per pupil rate as district schools. Teachers receive less compensation for advanced degrees, and many teachers are forced to work multiple jobs just to cover classroom and living expenses.

Yet management has been flush with public dollars from CPS over the years. Besides annual education funding, CPS has forked over $40 million to refurbish ChiArts’ various locations—including $31 million in renovations at its current building, the former Lafayette Elementary, which Rahm Emanuel shuttered in 2013 over the passionate objections of parents.

Low wages drive high turnover that averages 20% per year at ChiArts, vastly higher than similar top tier, publicly funded selective enrollment schools like Payton, Whitney Young or Northside College Prep—undermining students, teachers and the school’s long-term success.

Educators are also demanding that class sizes be capped at 28, in the wake of class sizes that have been creeping higher consistently for the last three years.

Teachers also demanding adequate resources for those classrooms. Today, teachers are forced to pay for or independently fundraise for needs that range from books for English classes to supplies and equipment for science classes. One low-wage science teacher has spent $1,700 of his own funds this year alone for classroom supplies, and physical education teachers are personally funding upwards of 70% of curriculum and equipment costs.

Low wages have driven teacher shortages. For example, management has yet to hire a certified teacher to teach over a hundred students in AP and freshman biology; those classes instead are ‘taught’ via computer-based curricula that locks out other students from their past use of those computers. Management has also failed to hire in a certified special education substitute to replace a faculty member on medical leave, shortchanging special education students with IEPs for months. Two years ago, special ed students went without adequate staff for 91 days, and the issue got worse last year, when special education students went without adequate staff for 160 of 175 school days.

Teachers also charge that as bargaining has heated up, management hostility has intensified. Last month, ChiArts hired a second law firm (in addition to its labor counsel) to assist in efforts to avoid providing ChiArts teachers with a pension. Despite receiving the same per pupil funding from CPS as all charter and district-run schools, ChiArts makes no contributions to the teachers pension fund.

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.