photo by Charles Edward Miller, Chicago Teachers Union Members and Allies Picket Outside Chicago Public Schools Headquarters Downtown Chicago Illinois 9-26-18 4105
Earlier this week the Chicago Teachers Union members at 15 UNO/Acero schools announced their strike date for Dec. 4th.
This marks a major moment in the discussion of public school funding in Chicago, especially after the passing of SB1 last year, a bill in the Illinois state legislature to fund schools which had revisions with Republicans in private. Charter Schools find themselves in a unique position in the midwest, as many voucher program initiatives are implemented without considering its effects on marginalized populations.
The strike specifically involves 500 teachers and staff members and 8,000 students, and its goals include smaller classes, increased special education funding, and better pay.
“Our question for Acero is this,” said special education apprentice Andy Crooks, “do we have students or do we have customers? Is this about education? Is this about educational justice? Is this about giving our students, and our families, an opportunity to succeed or is this about your bottom dollar?”
The charter network narrowly averted a strike in 2016, after reaching a late night deal that followed weeks of negotiations over pension contributions, the length of the workday for high school teachers, and class size.
This time, Acero’s roughly 500 educators are officially part of the much larger CTU. While charter schools have routinely operated independently of traditional schools, CTU members this year voted to bring roughly 1,000 organized educators at some 30 charter campuses into its organization.
The Acero charter school network serves about 7,500 predominantly Latino students at 15 campuses. Acero has told parents it would cancel all classes, athletics and extracurricular activities in the event of a strike, and is developing contingency plans for each of its campuses, while school buildings would remain open and supervised by nonunion staff members.
Ninety-eight percent of the Acero school educators voted to approve the work stoppage.
“Our bosses are a problem at all of our schools,” said Chris Baehrend the chair of the CTU’s charter division. “The days of them taking our taxes and not spending it in the classroom, and short changing our students, are over. These are our schools, and if we have to shut them down to make our employers do what’s right, we’ll do that. This is about changing the charter industry.”
Daniel Johanson (he/him) is a journalist and digital media specialist living in Chicago, Illinois. He serves as Editor-in-Chief at Scapi and in that capacity manages all things content, including writing and editing articles and producing digital content. His most recent work includes the docuseries Heart of a Nation: Tracking Socialism in the Midwest and co-hosting the podcast Scapi Radio. He spends his free time with cats.