Lawmakers target charters as Acero strike edges closer to a settlement
Progress is being made toward resolving the nation’s first-ever charter school strike, officials said, but the two sides are not there yet.
As the strike enters its fourth day Friday, teachers plan to target Ald. Ed Burke’s 14th Ward offices at 2650 W. 51st in Gage Park at noon. The Chicago Teachers Union said in a statement Thursday night they want Burke, whose ward is home to several Acero charter schools, to urge Acero CEO Richard Rodriguez to “settle the strike.”
On Thursday, hundreds of CTU members chanted and blew whistles at the headquarters of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, 150 N. Michigan, demanding better working conditions at Acero schools.
But Jesse Sharkey, CTU president, said talks have improved between CTU members and Acero’s management. He said negotiations over reducing class sizes have moved forward as well as making sure Acero campuses are sanctuary schools, though the sides still are debating over the final language of the contract.
One key issue the sides continue to wrestle over is wage increases for the 550 staff members, particularly paraprofessionals.
“We have seen a ‘pay schedule’ for paraprofessionals, but it’s not adequate yet; it is not what we are demanding, and we know Acero can afford it,” said teacher Martha Baumgarten, a member of the negotiating committee. “We are going to stand strong because we really believe our members deserve to be compensated for their education.”
Acero officials declined to comment Thursday afternoon.
Three state representative also joined CTU members at the picket lines to announce new bills in the Illinois House that would more closely regulate charter operators. The bills call for elected local school councils, limits on executive salaries and restrictions on how charters spend money.