In 2012 the Chicago Teachers Union led a historic strike that not only established an early challenge to the privatizing agenda of a new Mayor, but showed teachers across the country a vision of a new unionism.
This morning the Chicago Teachers Union is doing it again.
For the first time in American history, unionized charter teachers – 550 members of the CTU, teachers and paraprofessionals – will walk picket lines. They are on strike at Acero, one of Chicago’s largest charter chains.
The CTU has been negotiating with Acero’s management over salary, special-education resources, sanctuary schools and reduced class sizes.
Fifth grade Acero teacher Martha Baumgarten was quoted in this morning’s Sun-Times.
“We are fighting for sanctuary schools; 90 percent of our students or more of our students are Latinx. Many of them are facing immigration issues either themselves or with their families,” Baumgarten said. “We are demanding that no information is shared with ICE, that no one is let inside our schools without a warrant, that resources are provided to our families and our staff to help them stay in the country.
In a statement issued by the union this morning:
CTU members at UNO/Acero work hundreds of hours more than CTU members in district schools, for an average of $13,000 per year less. Paraprofessionals—the backbone of our school communities—earn even less. Management’s take of public dollars went up more than $10 million this year—while spending $1 million LESS on classroom resources.
Meanwhile, in a move some see as related, Chicago Public Schools is recommending that the school board deny all new charter applications for the next school year.
Eight charter operators had originally submitted proposals to open next school year, but five later withdrew. The three proposals left on the table included a charter middle school for at-risk boys in Englewood called Kemet Leadership Academy; a citywide high school operated by the established management group Intrinsic; and an elementary campus in Austin run by a small operator called Moving Everest. Moving Everest currently operates one other school in Austin.
Two of the groups, the nonprofit organizers behind the Kemet proposal and the executive director of Moving Everest, said they plan to appeal the district’s decision to the state charter commission.
Yesterday, I joined parents and students from Logan Square , along with folks from Raise Your Hand Action, at our state senators district office to express our dissatisfaction with her vote to uphold a Rauner veto of a bill removing the appeal powers of the state’s unelected Charter Commission.
20th state senate district’s Iris Martinez was one of only two Democratic Senators to vote to support the Commission. Martinez is a major recipient of campaign dollars from the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.
Having passed both chambers of the Illinois legislature, the bill to restrict the power of the Commission was vetoed by the defeated Governor Rauner.
If the new Governor and veto proof Democratic legislature keep to their promises, the Charter Commission will not likely survive another legislative session.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey explained the unions view of charters and of charter teachers to the press as reported in the Sun-Times:
“We are not against the people that work in that industry, we are not against the idea that people should have a good school, and that includes students that go to charter schools,” Sharkey said. “We have opposed charter school expansion because we believe this is an industry that is putting money into expansion but not into actually helping the students they already have or are already working for those schools.”
Acero, on the other hand, believes CTU is going on strike to make an “example out of charter schools.”
And in a way Acero is right. The CTU and Acero educators are demanding that existing charter schools like Acero treat teachers and students with respect and dignity.
Teachers in traditional Chicago public schools had to do that for the new mayor in 2012.
Chicago charter teachers at Acero are teaching that again this morning.