Strike At Chicago’s Aspira Charter School Averted

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Strike At Chicago’s Aspira Charter School Averted

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A charter school teacher strike has been averted for the second time this year in Chicago.

The union at the Aspira Charter Network announced late Thursday that they reached a tentative agreement. A vote to ratify the contract by the 106 union members will take place sometime next week. Aspira runs four schools serving about 1,200 students on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

Earlier this week, the union set an official strike date of March 17, but also noted it had received what it called a “great” offer from management.

Union President Marines Martinez said the strike threat resulted in a better offer from management.

“With everybody watching, they folded,” she argued.

Aspira Board President Fernando Grillo seemed determined earlier this week to prevent a strike. Though Aspira, like other charter school operators, has been cutting back in response to budget cuts from Chicago Public Schools, Grillo said he wanted to offer a strong package to teachers and avoid any layoffs.

The only people hurt by a strike would have been students, Grillo said.

“We are grateful their education will not be disrupted and look forward to building a strong future for Aspira,” he said in a statement issued late last night.

The tentative 2-year contract provides a 3.25 percent raise that will be retroactive to February and a 3 percent raise next year. Teachers will not be forced to kick in more for their pensions as was once demanded by management.

Because the contract is only two years, the two sides will start bargaining again as early as this spring.

The union also had complained about the physical conditions of schools, saying that they were dirty and in disrepair. In response, Martinez said management agreed to set up a hotline where staff could report problems.

“It does seem like they are listening to us,” she added.

Martinez said the union still wants greater clarity on how Aspira spends money from Chicago Public Schools. But a call for transparency is not something the union could strike over.

Aspira is the second Chicago charter school this year to nearly strike. A walkout by the union at one of the city’s largest charter chains, UNO Charter School Network, was averted just hours before teachers took to the picket line.

About 13 charter schools in Chicago are unionized. Last week, Noble Charter School Network’s 800 teachers said they wanted to start a union. Noble is the largest charter school network in Chicago. If teachers there are successful, Noble would have the biggest charter school union in the nation.

Sarah Karp is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her at @sskedreporter or @wbezeducation.