Teachers affiliated with the Chicago International Charter School network say they will go on strike Feb. 5 unless there is a breakthrough in contract negotiations, a move that would affect about 2,200 students at four of the organization’s campuses.
That leaves a little more than two weeks for teachers and school managers to settle a deal. While talks have made progress, educators said some key contract demands on compensation, class sizes and staffing have not been met.
“After months of negotiations, we have still not reached an agreement with management,” Jen Conant, who chairs the teachers’ bargaining unit, said on Thursday. “We are here for our students and for our schools. We are demanding better.”
CICS teachers at Ellison High School, Northtown Academy High School, Wrightwood Elementary School and ChicagoQuest High School have been trying to reach a contract with Civitas Education Partners, which manages the four campuses.
LeeAndra Khan, CEO of Civitas Education, said both sides have settled about three-quarters of a potential four-year contract. Agreements on compensation and working conditions are still pending, though she the organization has offered workers a pay raise.
The charter network said it would keep the four campuses open and on normal schedules throughout any strike, but after-school and extracurricular activities would be canceled.
Principals and non-union staff would help keep operations running, including what the network described as “online learning, recreational and arts activities.”
If there is a strike, it would not affect classes for thousands of students who attend 10 other CICS campuses.
“CICS is disappointed . . . and we will do everything we can to minimize the harm to our students and their families,” the charter organization said in a statement.
Chicago’s charter schools were originally seen by supporters as hubs for educational innovation that could operate without organized labor.
But last year, the Chicago Teachers Union merged with a division of unionized charter educators and has pressed for working conditions at the independently operated schools that are similar to those at traditional Chicago Public Schools.
Charter teachers work under contracts separately negotiated with each charter operator. They can bargain over issues that state law excludes from negotiations with traditional school educators in Chicago. They also have broader flexibility to call strikes.
A strike by CICS teachers would mark the second time charter teachers have walked off the job in Chicago.
Hundreds of educators at the Acero charter school network went on strike for four school days last year before settling a contract that secured better pay and smaller class sizes.
“The paraprofessionals, the teachers, the educators standing with us today are saying no more, and they want a resolution. They want a contract today,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates told reporters on Thursday. “And if they don’t get it, they’re willing to take the next step. It is past time that we do right by our school communities here in the city of Chicago.”
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