Teachers and management of Chicago’s Acero Schools reached a tentative deal Sunday, putting an end to the nation’s first-ever charter school strike.
More than 7,000 students at 15 Acero charter schools are expected to be back in class Monday morning. The historic strike at the city’s second-largest charter network canceled classes for four days, leaving families scrambling and attracting national attention.
At an event Sunday afternoon at the Chicago Teachers Union headquarters, Acero’s teacher and paraprofessional bargaining team spoke in front of a room full of educators and supporters and called the agreement a win.
“Today our students and our families have won,” said Andy Crooks, a special education apprentice — essentially a teacher’s aide — at Acero’s Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz school.
This is the first Acero contract negotiated since the charter union joined the Chicago Teachers Union. Among the key agreements is compensation that aligns with pay scales in the Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Teachers Union contract, including annual raises over the four-year contract. The contract of teachers at district-run schools will expire in the spring.
In a statement, Acero CEO Richard Rodriguez said the final agreement would incorporate demands from both sides.
“Thanks to hard work and very long hours from both bargaining teams, we were able to reach an agreement that values teachers and staff for the important work they do,” Rodriguez said, “while still maintaining the attributes of our network that help produce strong educational outcomes for our students.”
While neither side offered concrete contract details, the broad parameters of the agreement include:
- Wage increases for paraprofessionals based on seniority and education level. Previously, wages for paraprofessionals did not have mandated increases beyond annual raises negotiated in the last contract.
- Caps on class size at 30 students.
- A shorter school year that is closer to the length of CPS’s year. The Acero school year began on Aug. 13, earlier than the post-Labor Day start at Chicago Public Schools. Charter schools typically have longer school days and calendars than district-run schools.
- Shorter teacher work days that reduce additional duties but don’t cut into instructional time. The current instruction day is 7-1/2 hours, but teachers say they currently work more than eight hours a day.
- Enshrining language that promises so-called sanctuary school status for immigrant students and families into the union contract. The network’s agreement with teachers will include limits on sharing information about students with immigration authorities, as well as a requirement for a warrant or other legal standard before authorities enter schools.
- Carve-outs during the school day for special education case managers and a class size cap for special education teachers.
More than 500 teachers were on strike for four days, freezing instruction for Acero students and forcing parents to scramble to find child care. During the strike, union officials targeted political allies of Acero’s former parent company as the network filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in an effort to force teachers back into the classroom.