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  • 7AM TODAY, May 3: Press conference/picket lines
    IHSCA, 2520 S. Western Ave., Chicago. (Picket lines at all three striking schools: IHSCA, IJLA, LYHS)
  • 1PM TODAY, May 3: Rally and March
    IHSCA, 2520 S. Western Ave. Strikers will march to Instituto CEO’s office at 2555 S. Blue Island to rally for fair funding, then march to Pilsen Wellness offices at 2319 S. Damen to call for settlement.

No deal at bargaining table with operator IDPL for two striking charter schools or YCCS/Pilsen Wellness-run Latino Youth HS, as strikers hold fast in demand that management invest public dollars in classroom needs.

CHICAGO—CTU members from three striking schools run by two separate charter operators will mount picket lines at the schools after 6:30 AM TODAY and hold a press availability at 7AM at IHSCA, located at 2520 S. Western Ave., to provide an update on the status of bargaining, which was continuing through Wed. evening. Strikers at Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy and Instituto Justice Leadership Academy, both run by IdLP—Instituto del Progresso Latino—and Latino Youth High School plan to kick off a march on the offices of both charter managers with a 1PM press conference TODAY at 2520 S. Western Ave.

CTU bargaining has focused on four central demands: living wages, smaller class sizes, adequate staffing and more resources for classrooms and student supports. The CTU has reached tentative agreements with management at two other schools, ChiArts and YCLA—Youth Connection Leadership Academy—run by charter operator YCCS, the largest network of charter schools in Chicago, with 19 campuses. This strike is the first multi-employer charter strike in U.S. history, targeting operators of schools that serve overwhelmingly low-income Black and Latinx students.

CTU educators and Instituto management still remain far apart at the bargaining table.

Instituto extracts over $950k a year from ILJA and IHSCA combined through management fees. This year alone, they increased their management fee by 20% at IHSCA. On top of the fees, IHSCA and ILJA already cover all “management” costs out of their school budgets—including hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in school administration, payroll, recruitment, legal and accounting costs. Educators charge schools are being double billed and ripped off of public dollars that should be going to support students’ educational needs.

While public tax dollars paid for the IHSCA building, IHSCA extracts exorbitant rent from the school communities. The IHSCA building was a $22 million project that was built largely with the support of a combination of state grants ($12 million) and federal tax credits ($5+ million). Since 2011, IHSCA has paid over $6 million to Instituto in rent, through facilities funding provided by CPS. Despite the fact that the full cost of the building has already been paid for through public tax dollars, Instituto continues to charge rent to IHSCA of over $869,000 a year—and that ‘rent’ will climb to $962,000 by 2023.

In addition to rent, IHSCA covers all costs related to occupancy of its building out of its own budget. No costs are covered by Instituto. Between rent and occupancy costs, IHSCA pays $1.8 million a year.

And despite state, local, and federal public funding for IHSCA, the school only has a 5% ownership stake in a corporation that owns the building. Instituto itself holds the rest of the ownership.

The 2017 change in the state school funding formula plowed more revenues into charter schools, and IHSCA and ILJA saw CPS revenues climb. At IHSCA, CPS revenues climbed by $1 million from 2017 to 2019, or 12%. Yet salary costs for the bargaining unit at IHSCA declined by $250k, or 8%. If Instituto had invested proportionately into their teachers and paraprofessional staff, salaries would be 20% higher than they are today.

At ILJA, CPS revenues have increased by 33% since last year – yet bargaining unit costs shrank by 10%.

Instituto, charge strikers, is playing a shell game with public funds that profits management—and undercuts staffing and student services. At least 35 percent of staff have left IHSCA since the start of the 2017-18 school year, with the majority leaving for teaching positions that provide maternity leave, higher wages and a shorter school year. CTU members at the school complain that special education students are routinely denied the services to which they’re entitled under federal law, and that management routinely hires in cheaper and less effective substitute teachers rather than using in-house educators who choose to sub. A first year teacher with a BA working at CPS earns 56,665 per year, including pension pickup—significantly more than what IHSCA teachers are paid ON AVERAGE.

IJLA strikers have blasted management for deep cuts to staffing and student resources that harm the school’s at-risk student population. The school has gone from a fully funded staff of over 25 teachers and support staff in 2011 to only nine today—including zero counselors to help a highly traumatized student population address their social/emotional needs. The school has no science teacher, and critical staff shortages deny special education students the services they are entitled to under federal law. Educators charge that chronic mismanagement and distorted priorities drive the boss’s willingness to hire in $500/hour lawyers for the bargaining table, while offering nothing to fund student needs.

Strikers also blasted Latino Youth/Pilsen Wellness management for sending parents false information about sticking points at the table. Management has repeatedly cancelled bargaining sessions, and those that HAVE been held have been plagued by chronically inadequate management preparation.

LYHS receives the same funding as other charter schools per student, and charter operators on average receive more than $800 per student more than CPS-run schools, yet educators at schools near LYHS make significantly more money than LYHS teachers, who are asking for equal pay for equal work with educators in CPS-run schools—NOT a 30 percent raise as management has falsely claimed. YCCS, which holds the charter for LYHS and jobs out management to Pilsen Wellness, is the largest charter operator in the city, with 19 campuses, among the largest charter operators in the nation. While the charter operator is flush with public funds, millions of public dollars are being shunted away from students and classrooms and being spent instead on corporate members, management fees and bloated executive payrolls and salaries.

LYHS management has falsely claimed that the union has asked for reduced instructional time, when in fact the CTU’s proposed 7.25-hour average workday would have zero impact on classroom instruction or student contact time. Teachers typically work many more UNPAID hours per week providing after-school support and additional instruction to students, as well. Teachers have also proposed rules that would allow them to fund-raise for the school and their classrooms, which is not allowed despite acute shortages of classroom resources. The operator will only provide mental health services to documented students with specific insurance plans, leaving upwards of 30 percent of the student body in dire need of services. And educators are concerned that teacher retention is taking a dip since their first contract five years ago, as pay has lagged significantly behind other charters and district-run schools despite every teacher’s status as fully certified and endorsed as “Highly Qualified” in their fields.

Educators at four Aspira schools that serve overwhelmingly low-income Black and Latinx students—Haugen, Pantoja, Business & Finance HS and Early College HS—continue bargaining, but have voted overwhelmingly to strike if they can’t reach an agreement.

Besides fighting CTU demands to open their books and practice financial transparency, management at all three publicly funded schools is fighting contract language that would commit operators to following federal law for special education students and sanctuary protections for students.

INCS, the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, has supported charter operators’ efforts to beat back demands for better wages and working conditions, smaller class sizes, greater fiscal transparency and more resources for classrooms. The deep-pocketed lobby that represents charter operators is a linchpin in the industry’s stalwart opposition to reforms, from more financial accountability to restrictions on excessive management fees, which can shunt as much as 30 percent of public education funds into fees and away from classroom needs.