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Red for Ed: Throw down in Chicago

By staff

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey Announces strike authorization vo

Chicago, IL – Strikes are on the agenda. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) made this perfectly clear, turning out more than 250 people on October 24 for a rally to announce strike authorization votes at 19 charter schools next week. The votes will occur at two of the largest charter networks: Acero (formerly UNO, famous for scandals) and Chicago International Charter School (CICS).

“These two networks have about 650 CTU members,” said CTU charter division chair Chris Baehrend, “But we have people here today from all twelve of the unionized networks as well as CTU district members and allies. We have lined up all our charter school contracts. We will strike all of them if need be, in order to get our public tax dollars spent in our classrooms.”

Acero represents everything that is ugly about the charter industry. Public money given to private insiders turned up in their corrupt real estate deals. They have changed the name of their 15-school charter network, now called Acero, but they remain the poster child for secrecy, corruption and questionable finances.

The union will also be taking a strike authorization vote at four CICS schools. The strike authorization vote will occur at CIVITAS, a fully-owned subsidiary of CICS. This ‘division’ allows CICS to collect 16% of the public funds for management and then up to another 12% as CIVITAS in additional management fees. “We want the money to go into the classrooms,” said Jen Conant, a union leader at Northtown High School.

The rally was held at Acero Fuentes Elementary School because the Acrero Board was meeting there. After the announcement, protesters packed the meeting. During the public comment section Acero Marquez kindergarten teacher Emma Tarkowski said to Acero Board CEO Richard Rodriguez, “You see students as test scores and dollar signs. You don’t see the unique and beautiful people that I get the privilege to teach every day.”

It has been the policy of these and other charter operators to use charter exemptions from legal and financial oversight to bust unions, drive down wages and erode the public sector. Both political parties have been complicit in these policies. This year, the Chicago Board of Education gave $688 more per student to charter schools than to district public schools. Still, the turnover in charter schools is extremely high because wages are so much lower than in district schools. The charter operators create instability in their own schools by pocketing such huge portions of the public money.

“Educators’ working conditions are our students’ learning conditions. Teachers and paraprofessionals are woefully underpaid and overworked, with critical staffing shortages and a perilous lack of funding for basic services,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey.

Teachers and Paraprofessionals stormed a CICS Board meeting to make their demand

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