Regular classes at four Chicago International Charter School campuses were set to resume Tuesday, after negotiators reached a tentative deal to end the city’s second strike at the independently operated schools.
A pending four-year contract for some 200 unionized educators includes pay raises, class-size limits, one week of paid parental leave and shorter work schedules. CICS also will pay for a 7-percent chunk of teachers’ required pension contributions.
Charter officials said the agreement, reached after a two-week work stoppage that affected about 2,000 students, will cost an additional $5.5 million over the life of a deal that reflects broader national tensions over education policy and teacher pay.
“We also are proud to say that CICS had to contribute money to settle this contract,” charter teacher bargaining leader Jen Conant said Monday. “That means we changed the way that CICS does business, and they will serve our schools better in the future.”
Led by the Chicago Teachers Union, striking charter educators staged a camera-ready civil disobedience campaign that filled downtown sidewalks with loud protests, blocked access to a Loop office tower used by CICS board President Laura Thonn and crowded outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office for a Valentine’s Day card writing campaign.
Mayoral contender and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth in a group of candidates in the Feb. 26 city election and union-allied politicians who voiced support for the striking workers.
Those workers still must approve the deal formally, though there’s tension about how to pay for some of the proposed contract’s provisions.
Affected CICS educators will receive an average pay raise of nearly 35 percent over the course of the deal, according to the Chicago Teachers Union, and teachers will have salary schedules that meet or exceed rates seen at traditional Chicago Public Schools.
That means a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree would see their salary increase from $44,500 today to $57,000 by the contract’s fourth year, according to CICS. A teacher with a bachelor’s degree and six years of experience would go from $51,000 to $76,011 during the same time frame.
“With the limited funding that is an unfortunate reality in public education, in order to pay for such a significant salary increase, we will be forced to make certain cuts and compromises,” CICS said in a statement.
“For example, we will likely need to limit the number of instructional coaches, assistant principals and other valuable support staff members.”
Classrooms at the four CICS campuses could not hold more than 30 students under the proposed deal, according to the CTU, and the pact would set class size “goals” of 28 students. A CICS spokeswoman said class size limits had previously been set at 29 students in high school grades and 28 elementary students.
CICS said teachers would receive additional cost of living raises atop their scheduled salary increases, when state lawmakers increase education funding levels. The union also said full-time teaching assistants would staff every kindergarten through second grade classroom.
Student instructional time would not change under the tentative contract agreement, though teachers would see their work year calendars cut from 202 days to 190 days while shaving 15 minutes off their daily work periods.
Other contract language emphasizes protections for immigrant students, commitments to add classroom doors that lock from the inside and promises to comply with required services for special education students.
The CTU merged with a division of unionized charter educators last year and has since pressed for working conditions at the independently operated schools that are similar to those at traditional Chicago Public Schools.
Charter teachers work under contracts negotiated with each charter operator. They can bargain over issues that state law excludes from negotiations with teachers at traditional schools in Chicago. They also have broader flexibility to call strikes.
CICS campuses are operated by five independent “school management organizations” that use taxpayer dollars to finance their day-to-day operations. Striking educators at the four campuses affected by the charter network strike have been bargaining with the Civitas Education Partners firm.
“Some of the conditions we agreed to in this contract still allow us the flexibility to offer what we think is a unique experience for our students,” Civitas CEO LeeAndra Khan said Monday. “I’m not going to lie, this does squeeze us a bit, but I’m still very confident and hopeful that we will still figure out a way to do the work.”
Article Photo: Members of Chicago International Charter Schools teachers stage a civil disobedience protest inside the building that houses PricewaterhouseCoopers offices on Feb. 13, 2019. (Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune)