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Urban Prep teachers on strike over pay, lack of special education resources

Thirty-four teachers at the charter organization’s three campuses are on strike, union officials said.

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey, speaks to reporters outside Urban Prep Academy’s Englewood campus, 6201 S. Stewart Ave., Monday morning.
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey speaks outside Urban Prep Academy’s Englewood campus Monday morning.
Provided by CTU

Teachers at Urban Prep Academy’s three city campuses went on strike Monday, citing low wages and a lack of resources for special education.

“This employer has stalled in bargaining for three years,” said Chris Baehrend, the chair of the Chicago Teachers Union’s charter division, speaking in front of the Englewood campus Monday morning.

“They get the same funding as every other CPS and every other charter school. In addition, they got $3 million in PPE funding that was supposed to support salaries. Bosses have gotten raises every year. Theses educators have not gotten raises in three years.”

A total of 34 teachers are on strike at the school’s campuses in Englewood, Bronzeville, Near West Side, serving some 650 students, CTU officials said. Urban Prep, which are all-boys schools, say 100% of their graduates are admitted to college.

Ashlee Lewis, an English teacher at the Bronzeville campus, said the teachers’ demands are “not impractical and they make sense.”

“We deserve the fair pay that CPS is paying to every other school. Urban Prep has access to the same finances but, for some reason, we’re not receiving that pay,” she said.

Urban Prep Academy’s management had no comment on the strike.

The strike comes about a week before school is out for summer.

“We are fully aware that a strike will be disruptive at the end of the school year,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “But we are in a position where we have no choice. It’s been more than three years of bargaining. So now is the time for the leadership at Urban Prep Academy to reach a reasonable settlement.”

CTU officials say that Urban Prep teachers are at the “bottom of the pay scale” among unionized city schools and starting pay is about $11,000 less than at other CPS schools. The union and teachers at Urban Prep also says that special education students are being “shortchanged.”