A strike threat by teachers at a Chicago public charter school network may be working.
Teachers at the Aspira Charter School network went ahead and set a March 17 strike date Tuesday morning, but an offer by school management the night before has the potential to avert a walkout.
Union leaders said the terms relayed by Aspira management Monday night sweetened a previous offer, offering a potential breakthrough after 10 months of negotiations.
If the staff of about 100 at Aspira’s four Northwest Side schools decides to strike, it would be the first charter walkout in the country. About 1,200 students would be affected.
Union president Marines Martinez said Aspira’s management is bending on big issues, such as shortening the number of hours teachers must work.
“I am hopeful that they are taking us seriously and that they are coming up a little more,” Martinez said.
In response, Aspria Board President Fernando Grillo quipped: “Then, let’s get this done.”
Union leaders staff say the network claims to be broke and is asking for pay and benefit concessions. Among other demands, the union wants proof that Aspira can’t afford more.
But in a letter to parents Monday, Grillo said Aspira has “been open and transparent on every item the union has requested. Our accounting books are open and the union has had opportunities to review them.”
He also said the union has been slow to make counter proposals. Both sides blame the other for holding up negotiations.
Grillo also told parents that the schools have “absorbed an 8 percent cut in last year’s funding and a proposed $450,000 cut in this year’s funding without one teacher losing his or her job or installed pay increases. We have tightened our belts at every level.”
“Our current proposal,” he continued, “ensures all teaching jobs stay intact with an increase in pay.”
Grillo said he was hopeful there would be no strike, but noted that a contingency plan is in place in the event of a walkout.
This is a developing story. Check back later for updates.