Law­mak­ers tar­get charters as Acero strike edges closer to a set­tle­ment

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MANNY RAMOS, STAFF RE­PORTER [email protected]­times.com | @_ManuelRamos_ Manny Ramos is a corps mem­ber in Re­port for Amer­ica, a not-for-profit jour­nal­ism pro­gram that aims to bol­ster Sun-Times cov­er­age of is­sues af­fect­ing Chicago’s South and West sides.

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.

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