Striking Chicago charter school teachers score big win
CTU-ACTS division chair Chris Baehrend, CICS Northtown teacher and bargaining co-chair Jen Conant, and CICS Ellison teacher Kim Randle. CTU Facebook.

CHICAGO — After nine days on the picket lines, striking Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) teachers and paraprofessionals have reached a tentative agreement with Chicago International Charter School (CICS) management that protects counselors and social workers, limits class sizes, and raises teacher and paraprofessional pay up to CPS standards.

The tentative agreement immediately raises paraprofessional pay to the CPS schedule. Teachers are now placed on a salary schedule with extra pay lanes for advanced degrees. They receive an immediate average raise averaging 8 percent and will meet or exceed CPS salary rates by the last year of the four-year agreement.

The agreement ensures that future increases in public school funding are invested directly in the schools, rather than being captured by corporate management fees. Strikers were also able to beat back management’s attempt to cut family leave for paraprofessionals, and won paid parental leave for teachers for the first time ever.

Striking educators won sanctuary language in the contract—particularly critical for immigrant students and families—as well as stronger language on school safety, including a commitment to facilities improvements that include classroom doors that lock from the inside. Special education language has been written into the contract that holds CICS to providing legally mandated services for students. Educators also won guaranteed full-time staffing of teaching assistants in every kindergarten through Second grade class, a 7 percent pension pick-up and more affordable health care coverage for families.

Educators won reductions in class sizes—a key sticking point in negotiations—setting class size goals at 28 and barring any classroom from holding more than 30 students. The work year and work day for educators has been reduced—with no cuts to daily instructional minutes.

As a result of public pressure from the CTU, including union efforts to raise awareness about CICS’ bloated management structure, CICS has also announced that it will be ‘revising’ its fee structure for schools, which until this contract has siphoned off up to 30 percent of the public dollars CICS receives away from students’ educations. Both CEP and CICS were forced to return a combined $4 million back into their classrooms that CICS and its corporate management operations have siphoned out of school communities.

Educators, some of whom earn barely $30,000/year, will see average pay raises of nearly 35 percent over the contract term. The tentative agreement now goes to the full rank for review and a vote.

Parents, educators and allies are mobilizing at 4 p.m. on Tuesday for CICS’ quarterly board meeting to demand that they realign their bloated fee structure across the network, and call in CICS to sign onto legislation that would reign in profit-taking through bloated fees and corporate bureaucracies across the charter industry.

CICS has more than $36 million in unrestricted cash and cash equivalents in hoarded public education dollars—and increased fees more than 25 percent over the previous year. CICS has parked $19.8 million of that unrestricted $36.5 million in cash with C.W. Henderson, a firm controlled by CICS co-founder and former board president/treasurer Craig Henderson, one of a number of insider financial deals that have drawn the concern of state officials.

A growing number of elected officials have raised concerns about CICS’ financial practices. On Friday, State Senator Andy Manar and State Representative Will Davis, key architects of the state’s landmark new school funding formula, SB 1947, expressed concern that CICS was “violat[ing] the spirit of the new funding model and deny[ing] students the services they deserve.”

The day before, Rev. Jesse Jackson joined educators to demand that management settle the contract, just hours after the City Council Latino Caucus wrote to CEO Shaw, calling management’s failure to reach a fair agreement ‘shameful’. Striking educators filed a formal complaint with the Illinois Attorney General earlier in the week about CICS’ shady financial practices, insider deals, cash hoarding, rapid expansion of corporate positions and outrageous management fees.

On Friday, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth joined State Senators Ram Villivilam (8) and Jacqueline Collins (16) and State Rep. Mary Flowers (31) to meet striking educators and pledge their support to strikers’ struggle for educational justice for their students. Over a dozen elected officials and progressive candidates joined strikers in the first week of the strike at a picket of the charter industry’s lobby, INCS, which has backed CICS’ dawdling at the bargaining table. “Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions—and both need to improve at CICS,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Positions for CICS non-educational corporate staff earning over $100,000/year have ballooned from four in 2017 to 14 today, while schools confront serious shortages in special education teachers, counselors and social workers, as well as facilities needs, supplies like books and paper, and working computer equipment for students.


CONTRIBUTOR

Special to PeoplesWorld.org
Special to PeoplesWorld.org

Peoplesworld.org is a daily news website of, for and by the 99% and the direct descendant of the Daily Worker. Published by Long View Publishing Co., People’s World reports on the movements for jobs, peace, equality, democracy, civil rights and liberties, labor, immigrant, LGBT and women’s rights, protection of the environment, and more.

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