Tuesday, October 18, 2016

In a Nightmare for Neoliberal Ed Reformers, Chicago Charter School Teachers May Strike This Week - Working In These Times

In a Nightmare for Neoliberal Ed Reformers, Chicago Charter School Teachers May Strike This Week - Working In These Times:

In a Nightmare for Neoliberal Ed Reformers, Chicago Charter School Teachers May Strike This Week

In preparation for a possible strike, dozens of teachers, parents and supporters picketed in front of the charter network’s swanky downtown headquarters last week. (Christine Geovanis/ Flickr)   

When the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) struck in 2012, then-CEO of the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) Juan Rangel took the opportunity to sing the praises of the city’s charter schools, which remained open as CTU members walked the picket lines.
"I think parents are going to be frustrated when they see 50,000 kids (charter students) having an education, going to school without interruption and their kids” are not, Rangel told the Chicago Tribune.
Four years later, the tables have turned. An eleventh-hour agreement between the CTU and the school district headed off a second strike in Chicago Public Schools (CPS) last week. But there’s another teacher walkout still brewing—this time, at the UNO Charter School Network (UCSN), a group of 15 publicly-funded, privately-managed schools established by Rangel’s organization, from which he resigned in 2013. For the past seven months, UCSN teachers have been in a tough contract fight with management. If no agreement is reached this week, teachers plan to strike starting this Wednesday.
A walkout by charter teachers would not be totally unprecedented. Former American Federation of Teachers (AFT) organizer Shaun Richman notes in Jacobin that teachers at a Philadelphia charter school engaged in a “sick-out” during contract negotiations in 2011. But disruptive labor actions are a rare sight in the traditionally union-free charter industry, and UCSN teachers’ overwhelming vote this month to authorize a network-wide strike breaks new ground.
As education reformers have aggressively pushed the nationwide expansion of charter schools in recent years, teachers unions have fought back on two fronts. In addition to opposing continued charter growth, they have poured resources into unionizing existing charters in order to thwart what many believed was the central rationale of charter schools: chipping away at unions and driving down wages and working conditions in the industry.
“The city thought they were going to use charters to break the unions,” says Erica Stewart, a 5th-grade teacher at UNO’s Sandra Cisneros elementary school. “It didn’t work.” Stewart, who has taught within UCSN for six years after being laid off by CPS, helped bring a union into the network in 2013 and now serves on the bargaining committee. 
Chicago has been a hotbed for charter organizing. The Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (Chicago ACTS), an affiliate of the AFT that launched in 2009, now represents 32 charter schools, about one-fifth of the city’s total. Chicago ACTS’s numbers and leverage got a In a Nightmare for Neoliberal Ed Reformers, Chicago Charter School Teachers May Strike This Week - Working In These Times:


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