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ASPIRA teachers plan to take strike vote on Wednesday

ASPIRA Early College High School at 3986 W. Barry, (pictured in April 2014). ASPIRA network of charter schools teachers will vote Wednesday on whether or not to strike after 10 months of “stalled” contract negotiations. | Chandler West/For the Sun-Times

Teachers in the ASPIRA network of charter schools on the Northwest Side will vote Wednesday on whether or not to strike after 10 months of “stalled” contract negotiations.

“Negotiations have stalled over [a] lack of transparency and accountability in finances and foundering leadership at the network’s most senior levels, threatening conditions in classrooms,” ASPIRA teachers, who are members of the ChiACTS Local 4343, said in a statement Monday.

The network operates a middle school and three high schools on the Northwest Side. A strike by ASPIRA teachers would be the first at a charter school anywhere in the country.

ASPIRA will spend more than 40 percent of its budget on overhead this year, including senior staff salary, compared to the 25 percent spent by Chicago Public Schools, the union said.

Last year, Chicago’s UNO network of charter schools narrowly avoided a strike, just days after the Chicago Teachers Union reached an agreement with Chicago Public Schools that averted the union’s second strike since 2012.

ASPIRA teachers said they blame the network’s struggles solely on board chairman Fernando Grillo, who has been in charge for seven years.

“In the last 6 weeks alone, the charter network’s CEO and Chief Academic Officer have been removed, only one principal who started the school year remains in that position, and the system’s COO — who had essentially been running the charter school network — recently resigned,” the teachers’ statement said.

The results of the strike vote will be announced at a rally for the teachers Wednesday afternoon at the ASPIRA campus at 3121 N. Pulaski.