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Chicago Charter Teachers Strike, Petition Challenges Fly – TODAY 12-04-18

Chicago Charter School Teachers Walk Out in Nation’s First Ever Charter School Strike

More than 500 educators at 15 Chicago charter schools went on strike Tuesday morning in the first-ever strike of a charter school operator in American history.

“We’re going to stay on strike until we get educational justice for the people who work at Acero Charter Schools,” said Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey at an early morning press conference outside of the Acero Network’s Veterans Memorial Campus in Archer Heights. “We’re going to stay on strike until the students at Acero Charter Schools get the resources in their classrooms that they need. Our main issues are equal pay for equal work – teachers at Acero work 20 percent more time for 15 percent less pay…we want smaller class sizes, resources for special education and other things our students need.”

Officials with the CTU say that management at the charter network ended this year spending $1 million less in staff salary costs for program services than in 2017, and despite having $28 million in cash on-hand, has refused to pay any more in compensation for paraprofessionals or make other improvements. They’re also demanding an increase in special education funding and sanctuary schools for the large Latinx population of students.

“Management had the power to settle a contract tonight—and instead they offered us more of the status quo that has plagued the charter industry for years,” Sharkey said Monday night in a statement emailed to press after negotiations broke down.

According to the union, Acero collects about 8 percent more in funding per student than in Chicago Public Schools. An audit obtained by the CTU, Acero schools got about a 10 percent bump in funding from last year with the charter network collecting an extra $89 million from CPS revenue sources. Meanwhile they say class sizes are too high and staffing resources are too low, called the level of proposed salary increases for some educators “laughable,” and accused Acero of trying to divide teachers and paraprofessionals.

“This time, even after an audit yesterday that shows that Acero has a whole lot more money than it disclosed, it refuses to treat its paraprofessionals or its teachers fairly and it refuses to give the conditions that we know are necessary for kids to learn,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, on the picket line at Acero VNC this morning.

Officials with Acero urged the parents of more than 7,500 students to keep their kids home and slammed the union for the strike.

“We are very disappointed that union leaders have put their anti-charter political agenda ahead of the interests of our students,” Acero Schools CEO Richard L. Rodriguez said in a Tuesday statement published by the Sun-Times. “The sad fact is that interests from outside our community are using our students and our schools as a means to advance their national anti-charter school platform.”

The Acero strike is the second major strike organized by the CTU in less than a decade. Chicago Public Schools teachers represented by the union went on strike in 2012.

Electoral Campaigns File Petition Signature Challenges

The 2019 Chicago election entered its next phase as the deadline to challenge candidates over their petition signatures and other alleged inconsistencies in campaign paperwork came Monday evening.

Last month, 21 mayoral candidates filed petitions to appear on the ballot. Candidates for mayor need at least 12,500 valid signatures to appear on the ballot, while aldermanic candidates need at least 500. Petition challenges are a strategic move by campaigns in order to attempt to knock rivals off the ballot, and with crowded fields in mayoral and aldermanic races, successful ones could reshape dozens of races.

According to information from the Chicago Board of Elections, more than 150 challenges were filed in Aldermanic races, 16 in the mayor’s race, along with some in the race for City Treasurer and City Clerk. Mayoral candidates facing challenges include Roger L. Washington, Ja’Mal Green, Catherine Brown D’Tycoon, Conrein Hykes Clark, Susana Mendoza, Dorothy Brown, Richard Mayers, Lori Lightfoot, Neal Sales-Griffin, LaShawn Ford, William Daley, and Garry McCarthy. Several candidates face multiple challenges.

Challenges to petitions aren’t without merit, however. In the days after candidates filed, reporters and campaigns alike posted photos of sheets that appeared to have multiple signatures with the same handwriting and other irregularities.

Candidates and their campaign representatives attacked one another in the wake of the challenges filed.

“I am appalled that we have Dr. Willie Wilson. A man who claims to be for the people…But a person who says no black candidate should be in the race but him. It’s the most disgusting thing I have ever seen,” said Ja’Mal Green, of Wilson’s challenge to his signatures, according to WGN. “If you think you can beat me, beat me fair and square on the ballot.”

Mendoza’s co-campaign manager called Preckwinkle’s challenge “old guard politics tricks.” “They want to cling to power, they know the biggest threat to that power and their controlling city hall is one person, and that’s Susana Mendoza,” Marty Castro told ABC7.

Lori Lightfoot also accused Preckwinkle of old-guard Chicago politics.

“We’re confident that we’ve got the signatures necessary to get on the ballot, full stop. …. Petition challenges are the old Chicago way-and so is Toni Preckwinkle,” said Lightfoot. “Preckwinkle lacked the courage to take on Emanuel and aligns herself with the likes of Berrios and Burke, so it’s no surprise that she’s trying to take out the only independent reform candidate in this race.”

The Chicago Board of Elections will set hearing dates on the challenges at the end of December.

Recommended reads:

Happy Birthday, Illinois! – Ted Cox/One Illinois

Reimagining Local Journalism – Bettina Chang/Belt Magazine

Our Sorry State – Rich Miller/Capitol Fax

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