Chicago Teachers Union-backed educators at two Instituto del Progreso Latino charter schools are going on strike after they say little progress was made during the latest round of contract negotiations over the weekend.
Teachers at the two Little Village-area campuses — the Justice and Leadership Academy and the Health Sciences Career Academy — had already set a Feb. 6 strike date, claiming Instituto leadership’s lack of bilingual and special education supports for students and “mismanagement” of school funds.
“No one wants to strike, but Instituto has not made progress on key demands teachers have raised to protect our students,” Jen Conant, the chair of CTU’s Charter Division, said in a statement. “This could have easily been avoided if the Instituto was willing to fund the baseline services that our students deserve and are legally entitled to.”
The teachers union said it represents 48 members and staff, who serve 600 students at both Instituto schools.
Good morning from the picket line at Instituto Health & Science Career Academy !!
— Chicago Teachers Union (@CTULocal1) February 6, 2024
Instituto staff said they’ve been bargaining for more than a year, but claim administration has “refused to take this process seriously.” According to the teachers, Instituto has refused to agree to adopt special education staffing levels, standard language around educators’ rights and sanctuary protections for immigrant students and employees.
“A fair contract will look like special education law being followed,” CTU President Stacy Davis Gates said during a press conference Tuesday morning. “You know what a fair contract looks like? Bilingual education for students who need bilingual education.”
Union officials said they’ve sought to “stabilize staffing” through their contract demands and claim Instituto leadership have refused to treat their teachers with “dignity and respect.”
Instituto officials have accused the CTU of spreading “countless misstatements and lies.” The administration previously denied that it has 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 also previously 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.”
According to Instituto, the sides have already reached tentative agreements on more than two dozen issues. Davis Gates believes they are close in other places as well, but expressed some concern about how long the strike could go on.
“If they just follow the law, we’re in the classroom right now,” she said. “We have been negotiating this contract for over a year … It is frustrating to be at a table where you are intent on settling something and they’re intent on not settling.”
This is a developing story.