Teachers at yet another Chicago charter school — Passages Charter School in Edgewater — have set a strike date for May 25, setting themselves up to potentially be the first in the country to go on strike.
The decision to strike was taken on May 4 with a unanimous vote; the date for the 47 members of ChiACTS Local 4343 to walk out was announced Friday before a scheduled bargaining session.
Union members have been in contract talks for a year at the school that’s home to about 470 elementary students, including a large population of immigrant and refugee students.
Teachers say they are paid “rock-bottom” salaries in the $30,000 to $40,000 range — well below Chicago Public Schools teachers and low even for charter schools — while the current and former CEOs of the stand-alone school earned a combined $540,000 in the year ending June 30, 2016. Union members believe their salaries are low because of administration’s spending on itself — tax records show $281,000 alone on”other compensation” for the retired CEO — and overhead expenses and because those leaders do no fundraising.
“We really believe in the mission of this school and the students we serve, and it’s time for management to provide the resources we need to carry out that mission,” said third grade teacher Gina Mengarelli, a member of Passages’ ChiACTS bargaining team.
“None of us wants to strike – we want to be in our classrooms with our students.”
On its website, Passages noted that agreement has been reached on employee discipline, health and safety, grade entry, and after-school events, and that negotiations continue in good faith on economic issues.
“We continue to negotiate these issues at a time of significant financial uncertainty, given the local and State-wide budget issues that have resulted in reduced funding to all charter schools, including Passages. Most recently, Passages’ funding was reduced yet again, by $189.58 per pupil, causing a reduction of approximately $83,000 in the current fiscal year.”
“We want you to know that we are working very hard to reach a fair compromise with the Union, and that we take very seriously our duty to bargain in good faith. We also want you to know that we continue to keep the education of Passages students first in all that we do.”