Dec 10, 2018
Teachers and staff at Acero charter schools hit picket lines Tuesday December 4th, in the first-ever charter school strike. The Acero network includes 15 schools, of over 7,000 students, with 550 teachers and staff. (Acero is the new name for the UNO schools – they “rebranded” in the wake of political and financial scandals.) Acero is the second largest charter school network in Chicago, with schools concentrated on the Northwest and Southwest sides, and a student body that is 95% Latino and overwhelmingly working class.
Staff and teachers held informational picketing Monday, before striking, getting a good response from students and parents. Those striking called for smaller class sizes and higher pay. Acero classes are uniformly large with most classes at 30 to 35 students. The Acero school day is an hour longer than the public schools, while teachers are paid substantially less.
The union demanded raises for teacher aides, as well as a salary schedule, a path for aides to become teachers, and more money for special education services. Acero has the money – the union notes that Acero took in 10 million dollars in additional funding last year, while actually cutting the amount that it spent in the classroom by one million. And the network is sitting on 24 million dollars in reserves. Acero’s “CEO,” Rich Rodriguez makes $260,000 a year – more than the woman who runs all of Chicago’s 500 public schools.
The strike gives the lie to the claim that charter schools are better for students. Charters siphon public money for their private operators, at the expense of working class kids’ education.
Early Sunday morning, the bargaining team reached a tentative agreement and suspended the strike. Teachers and staff won pay improvements, smaller classes and the sanctuary policy. Undoubtedly, it’s not enough. But it is more than they would have got without a fight.