Unless a deal is reached in late-night bargaining on Monday, around 140 educators at four Chicago International Charter Schools are poised to strike Tuesday morning, according to their union. A walkout would make Chicago home to the nation’s second-ever charter strike.
Schools will remain open for the four schools’ 2,200 students, the charter chain said, and pledged to staff the campuses with administrators and non-union employees. The schools plan to serve breakfast and lunch and provide online learning and recreational activities.
Teachers and support staff are demanding increased pay that rewards their education levels and experience, more counselors and social workers, and smaller class sizes. They are also angry at recent changes in benefit structures, including no longer offering paid parental leave for staff.
Union officials said the network has offered teachers an 8 percent raise in the first year of the contract, but only if they agree to staffing cuts in some areas like counseling and social workers. The last contract expired in August 2018.
So far, educators have rejected the network’s proposal. “We are telling management that is unacceptable, and our students deserve fully staffed schools with counselors and social workers,” said Jen Conant, a math teacher at CICS Northtown and a union chair representing teachers.
The strike would affect only a third of schools under the Chicago International umbrella, which covers 14 schools run by a handful of management companies. Educators at four of those schools are unionized — one run by Chicago Quest and three by Civitas Education Partners. The four schools are ChicagoQuest, Northtown Academy, Ralph Ellison, and Wrightwood.
Labor strife at Chicago International follows a walkout in December by Acero teachers, who won many of their demands in December.