UNO Charter School Network teachers also considering strike

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Should teachers at the UNO Charter School Network walk out on strike, they’d likely be the nation’s first group of charter school educators to do so. | Sun-Times file photo

As parents and community groups allied with the Chicago Teachers Union teachers are pledging their support for teachers during a potential upcoming strike in the state’s largest school district, a separate group of educators at one of the city’s largest charter school systems is taking its own strike authorization vote.

Should teachers at the UNO Charter School Network walk out, they’d likely be the nation’s first group of charter school educators to do so.

The 500 members of United Educators of UCSN plan to vote to authorize a strike on Wednesday and Thursday, according to spokeswoman Erica Stewart, a 5th grade teacher at the Sandra Cisneros UCSN campus in Brighton Park.

Stewart said that negotiations over the teachers’ second contract with the charter chain have gone on for seven months. And though the charter union isn’t required to levy a certain threshold of support as the CTU must do before striking, the union is surveying members by secret ballot anyway.

The union is looking for a slightly longer summer than the current five weeks off. It wants 6 weeks and 2 days.

It also is asking management to cap class sizes at 32 students apiece.

And though teachers at the 16 UCSN campuses fare well financially in management’s proposals, support staff do not, Stewart said.

“No one wants to go on strike,” Stewart said. “We don’t want to do that to our families, we don’t want to do that to ourselves, but we’re getting to a point where management is pushing us into a corner.”

In updates posted regularly on the schools’ website, UCSN CEO Richard Rodriguez maintains that “that there is no need for a strike, as teachers have already received their salary raises for this current school year.”

On average, teachers got a 6.2 percent raise, or about $3,822 per teacher. That’s despite a $5.7 million cut in the funding CPS sends to UCSN.

“We value our teachers and want to ensure they are fairly compensated, but have to do so in a way that allows us to continue providing” a quality education, Rodriguez wrote Friday.

No strike timing has been discussed yet, and all UCSN schools are off next week for fall break.

Andrew Broy of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools said a strike by UCSN staffers would be the nation’s first strike for charter schools, which were originally designed to avoid the hassle of unions or bureaucracy.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Teachers Union has set its strike date for Oct. 11.


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