Teachers’ Unions Back Nation’s First Charter School Strike

Chicago Charter Teachers Strike

Wednesday marked the second day of the nation’s first charter school teachers’ strike as hundreds of Chicago charter teachers walked on picket lines.

Backed by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the charter teachers with the Acero Schools charter network – which are privately operated public schools – walked off their jobs Tuesday morning, cancelling classes for about 7,500 mostly Hispanic students.

Acero CEO Richard Rodriguez said an “anti-charter political agenda” created the walkout.

“There is absolutely no good reason to put students and parents through the upheaval of a strike,” Rodriguez said, according to the Chicago Tribune. “The sad fact is that interests from outside our community are using our students and our schools as a means to advance their national anti-charter platform.”

AFT president Randi Weingarten joined striking teachers on picket lines Tuesday.

“Whether it is a public charter, whether it is a public school, whether we are in West Virginia or in Chicago, teachers want and need a voice in order for us to assure that children get what they need,” Weingarten said. “That is why we are walking out for our kids today.”

Talks between teachers and Acero management over class size, pay, and length of school day and school year are still being negotiated, says the news report.

“We’re making some progress, but there’s a long way between the two sides,” said Andy Crooks, an Acero staffer and a lead negotiator. “It’s a philosophical difference. What we are arguing is that we have students in our classrooms, and what Acero is telling us is those students are dollar signs. And they need the dollars, and we need the time with our students.”

Officials from the Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) criticized CTU’s involvement in the negotiations, saying the strike would restrict the independence of the charter school.

“If we accede to the idea that every unionized charter in Chicago has to have the exact same (working conditions), pretty soon we’re going to lose what the movement has contributed to the city — which is a vibrancy, a differential approach,” INCS president Andrew Broy said, reports the Tribune. “It would be a step backward for the city if we go down that path.”

In January, CTU allowed a merger with a division of unionized charter teachers, including about 500 unionized Acero educators. CTU president Jesse Sharkey also joined with striking teachers on picket lines.

“We’re going to stay on strike until we get educational justice for the people who work in Acero charter schools,” Sharkey said. “We’re going to stay on strike until the students at Acero charter schools get the resources into their classrooms that they need to do their jobs.”

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