Chicago Teachers Union-backed educators at a pair of Instituto del Progreso Latino charter schools could go on strike early next month after more than two years of bargaining.
Teachers at the two schools announced a Feb. 6 walkout date over issues including what they say is a “mismanagement” of school funds and a lack of bilingual and special education supports for students.
Instituto runs a pair of Little Village-area high schools: the Justice and Leadership Academy and the Health Sciences Career Academy.
According to the CTU, voting members unanimously authorized a strike in December after school leaders refused to meet minimum special education staffing levels, increase pay or add sanctuary protections for immigrant students and employees.
“We have been in negotiations for two years trying to improve our schools and get a fair contract,” Jen Conant, who leads the CTU’s charter division, said during a news conference Thursday. “Instituto has not been interested in landing an agreement.”
The Chicago Board of Education on Thursday approved a one-year charter renewal for Instituto’s Justice and Leadership Academy High School, but district officials said the school was not meeting operational performance standards and needed to improve its overall academic performance.
During that meeting, CTU President Stacy Davis Gates noted that the high school received the shortest possible charter extension and has failed to improve its special education and bilingual services.
“We’re bargaining over it and heading toward a strike because they ain’t put it in there yet,” she told the board.
In a statement, Instituto officials accused the CTU of spreading “countless misstatements and lies.” Officials took issue with the claim that they’ve refused to meet minimum special education staffing needs and instead blamed a nationwide teacher shortage and a wave of voluntary resignations just before the start of the academic year for putting Instituto schools “in a bind.”
The charter officials also said they take “immense pride in providing a safe environment for all of our students, including our immigrant students.”
“To be clear, CTU’s disagreements with Instituto on sanctuary status is not about students, parents or the community. It is purely economic,” an Instituto spokesperson said in a statement.
The charter also said it made a fair offer for teacher pay and “firmly believe in equal pay for all of our members,” but added that without “CPS-level funding and without CPS-level working hours, we do not believe salary above CPS teachers is a good faith demand.”
“To say that negotiations have stalled is simply inaccurate and certainly not because of our bargaining team’s lack of willingness and participation,” an Instituto spokesperson said.
According to Instituto, the sides have reached tentative agreements on 25 proposals thus far. Negotiations continued Thursday, and additional bargaining meetings are scheduled next week.