On the front lines of the first charter teacher strike in U.S. history, educators braved early-morning freezing temperatures and light snow to call for higher pay, more support staff, and an investment in special education at Acero schools on Tuesday. Here’s what five of them told Chalkbeat. 

PHOTO: Yana Kunichoff / Chalkbeat Chicago
Susana Urquiza

Susana Urquiza, a teacher at Major Hector P. Garcia M.D. High School

I am the bilingual education teacher in a school of 175 students who are considered English learners and I am the only teacher managing the program… Another teacher to help me with the program would be helpful. I’ve had to get subs for my classroom, so I don’t feel like I am really helping my students.

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PHOTO: Yana Kunichoff / Chalkbeat Chicago
Gabriela Ceja

Gabriela Ceja, a teacher apprentice for kindergarten at SPC Daniel Zizumbo Elementary

I am out here today because we have noticed a huge deficit in our special education program. I’ve been with Acero for eight years now, and we have seen a lack of support. Our classrooms are growing in numbers when it comes to [children in special education], but [our students] don’t have enough support when it comes to social/emotional issues.

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PHOTO: Yana Kunichoff / Chalkbeat Chicago
Maria Morales

Maria Morales, K-3 grade bilingual teacher at PFC Omar E. Torres Elementary.

We are in the third year that Acero turned into a bilingual school, so there is a lot of need in that area. They want to go up to 40 kids per classroom, that is not good for teachers or for students. These communities are majority Hispanic, and they need special services. It could be bilingual or ESL, and I don’t feel that it’s being given the right way.

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PHOTO: Yana Kunichoff / Chalkbeat Chicago
Heidi Burrel and Robert Brogi

Heidi Burrel, a special education teacher at Major Hector P. Garcia M.D. High School and parent of a child at SPC Daniel Zizumbo Elementary, and Robert Brogi, special education manager at Major Hector P. Garcia M.D. High School

Burrel: My concern is special education funding. My husband also works at Acero and one of the concerns we have is that paraprofessionals are not given any pathway to become teachers here. There is no support for going back to school, helping pay for training or really any mentorship. And they also want to cap salaries for paraprofessionals, who are very important in our schools.

Brogi: Acero refuses to fully staff our special education department. With the big push for compliance, they are just not providing us with the teachers or the paraprofessionals that we need to make sure our diverse learners are getting the education they deserve.