Chicago, IL – Teachers and staff at the Urban Prep Academies’ three campuses in Chicago won their strike after two days, reaching a tentative labor agreement. The schools serve a predominantly Black community and are all-boys schools, which significantly shaped the demands of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and underscore the importance of this victory.
The teachers won a commitment from management that they would begin to follow special education laws, even after months of rejecting contract language that would secure those same rights. This is a big win for the students. They also won language giving them the right to open the contract for renegotiation shortly after the next school year. This is greatly important because the charter school company is facing serious allegations around troubling financial practices, including the use of shady lending services.
CTU says their families, teachers and staff remain deeply committed to the company’s mission to nurture and support young Black men. They are committed to holding management accountable to this shared vision and mission. That is why the questionable financial practices are of the utmost concern to anyone who believes in the mission.
“The members who just won a strike at the ninth CTU bargaining unit to walk the line in less than three years, moved mountains in a very short time. Union members took a brave stand for students with disabilities, for stability in staffing, and for the rights, power and funding needed to help the young Black men they serve achieve the greatness they so richly deserve,” said Chris Baehrend, chair of the CTU charter school division.
In addition, the educators won first-ever class size limits for Urban Prep students. They also made improvements to teacher evaluations and provisional periods for new hires aimed at retention of high quality teachers. The Urban Prep Charter Schools were notorious for high turnover. Teachers will also receive additional paid leave, backpay for the three years they were denied raises, as well as salary increases moving them closer to others teachers throughout the district. Urban Prep will also pay a stipend to mentor-teachers who will work to help develop young educators.
Urban Prep received $3 million in forgivable COVID PPP federal loans on top of their CPS funding. Teachers have seen no evidence that management has invested those funds into classrooms, noting that they should invest in attracting and retaining quality teachers.
The strike was short, but the wins were significant and will have serious long term effects for the teachers and staff and for the mostly Black students at the schools.
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