After months of stalled negotiations and more than 30 bargaining sessions, educators at four Chicago International Charter Schools will go on strike Tuesday morning, making Chicago home to a charter teachers strike for the second time in less than two months.
While teachers plan to hit the picket line at 6 a.m., the network assured families that despite the strike the four schools would remain open for the 2,200 students enrolled.
“Because CICS and Civitas have a responsibility to the working families whose children attend our schools, campuses will remain open,” the network said in a statement, noting that they were deeply disappointed by teachers’ decision to strike. Civitas Education Partners is a management company running some of the network’s schools.
The network pledged to staff the campuses with administrators and non-union employees. The schools plan to serve breakfast and lunch, and will offer online learning and recreational activities to students.
The teachers union, meanwhile, accused the network of stringing members along during months of bargaining. “They’ve forced us to be on the picket line, and we will shut these schools down,” said Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates.
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.
Kimberly Randle, an English teacher at CICS Ralph Ellison, said that she was willing to strike because of the chronic turnover of educators at her school.
“Our students are not being able to get the education that they deserve,” Randle said, noting that many of her sophomore English students began the school year unprepared — having had rotated through teachers and substitutes the year prior.
The strike will 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.