More than 800 students at two Instituto del Progreso Latino schools were expected to return to school Tuesday after striking educators and the charter network reached a tentative agreement, ending the shutdown of five schools where teachers threatened to walk out last week.

A tentative agreement reached late Monday with the union representing 72 teachers and support staff at the Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy and Instituto Health Science Career Academy would bump teacher wages to the level of district-run schools. It also would cap class size and assess a financial penalty for exceeding it, and promises compliance with federal regulations on services for special education and English learner students.

The strike, the third at charter schools in Chicago this school year, was the first to include multiple charter and contract operators. The Chicago Teachers Union has become the more assertive union in the country seeking to improve pay and conditions for charter teachers.

“I feel great about this agreement; we have made such a huge increase for our members and staff,” said Mihir Garud, a ninth-grade financial literacy teacher and treasurer of the Chicago Teachers Union charter division. He was particularly happy that the network agreed to help protect immigrant students, and to lower the ratio of social workers and school psychologists to students.  

“It’s really made Instituto del Progreso Latino invest a lot in the school over the course of this four-year agreement,” Garud said.

In a statement, Instituto management said teacher wages would progressively reach 102% of district teacher salary schedules over the next three years. Class sizes would be capped for 27 at Instituto Health Science Career Academy and 25 at Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy, an alternative school that serves students who were either expelled or otherwise left traditional schools to seek an alternate path to graduation.

“We are eager for IHSCA’s and IJLA’s students, teachers and school leadership to return to their shared mission and put the strike behind them,” said Karina Ayala-Bermejo, CEO of Instituto del Progreso Latino, in a statement.

The three other schools that went on strike May 1 and reached tentative agreements include:

  • The Chicago High School for the Arts, also known as ChiArts, is a contract school on the West Side negotiating its first labor agreement. Teachers won salary increases that management said will require dipping into reserves.
  • Youth Connection Leadership Academy, an alternative school run by Youth Connection Charter Schools, came to an agreement before walking out on strike.
  • Teachers at Latino Youth High School, run by Pilsen Wellness Center and owned by Youth Connection Charter School, won a promise for the school to increase salaries, add a full-time counselor and create a shorter workday.

Teachers at all schools must still ratify the final contracts before the changes go into effect.