Charter educators seek to unionize in order to amplify teacher voices at work and reduce staff turnover
CHICAGO, March 29, 2021 — Teachers, paraprofessionals, and other staff at two more charter schools — Christopher House and Intrinsic — have both announced in recent days their intent to join the Chicago Teachers Union. The Christopher House bargaining unit filed its request on March 19 for a certification election with the NLRB, and the Intrinsic staff filed its NLRB election request on March 26.
“A union will help my school attract and retain the highly-qualified and diverse teaching staff our students deserve,” said Jordan Reece, who is a fourth and fifth grade science teacher at Christopher House. “When we stand together, we as educators can collectively raise our voices in order to ensure that administrators make decisions that support the long-term success of students and staff.”
Usually, the NLRB needs a few weeks to schedule an election, but because of pandemic-related delays at the labor board, it may be late April or May before the elections take place.
In the months and years before the pandemic hit, a wave of charter unionization drives swept through Chicago, as educators sought to bring stability to their schools and compel charter operators to put money into resources for students rather than profits and management salaries. The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on already marginalized communities has only further intensified the pressures that educators feel.
At Christopher House’s K-8 school in the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood, which has been particularly hard hit by the pandemic, the staff has filed for an in-person election. Christopher House’s elementary school emphasizes programs that help whole families thrive, including child care centers and classes for parents. More than 40 staff members are seeking to join the CTU in order to give educators a collective voice at work and to implement policies that encourage teacher retention and sufficient staffing to provide full support to the school’s significant population of Diverse Learners and English Language Learners.
At Intrinsic, there are about 100 educators at two campuses seeking a vote on representation by the CTU. Intrinsic’s Belmont school, which is not far from Christopher House elementary on the northwest side, is already a combined middle and high school, while its downtown campus currently accepts students in 9th and 10th grades and will add an 11th grade next year and 12th grade the year after that.
“I grew up in this community and our students deserve the best teachers,” said Carly Crittendon, a high school social science teacher at Intrinsic’s Belmont campus. “And as we know, when teachers are involved in the decision-making process and treated like professionals, Intrinsic will become a place where the best teachers want to stay.”
DeJa’ Willingham, a high school humanities teacher at Intrinsic’s Downtown campus, added: “Students deserve teachers who are invested in staying, and teachers deserve an environment that is sustainable and consistent.”
The Intrinsic staff has similar concerns to Christopher House educators about staff turnover, adequate supports for DL and ELL students, and promoting teacher voice at work.
“We are forming a union to model advocacy and social justice for our students, families, and colleagues,” said Michelle Correa, a school counselor at Christopher House.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey applauded educators at the two schools. “Educators, from teachers to school clerks, are the backbone of our school communities,” he said. “The CTU is proud to support these educators in this landmark effort to win what management has failed to deliver for students — safe, adequately resourced school communities and the equity that students and families at Christopher House and Intrinsic deserve.”