Teachers from Instituto Health Science Career Academy and Instituto Justice and Leadership Academy went on strike Tuesday, demanding competitive wages and more school resources.
The teachers, who are part of the Chicago Teachers Union, started striking outside Instituto Health Science Career Academy, 2520 S. Western Ave. in Little Village after more than a year and a half of bargaining. Their demands included more competitive wages as well as the hiring of additional teachers, bilingual staffing and special education faculty. CTU represents 48 members and staff at both Instituto schools.
“We have kids that are lost. They need extra support within the classroom,” said Maureen O’Donnell, who teaches world history, civics and consumer education.
The two schools enroll a total of 550 students. Of those, 300 are in need of emergent bilingual services, and 130 are in need of special-education services, she said.
Without these services, students aren’t getting the education they need and deserve, O’Donnell said. She said a lack of resources leaves students frustrated and disconnected, she said.
“We are deeply disappointed with the union’s decision to strike, especially after we acquiesced to their most ‘critical demands’: compensation, retirement and healthcare in line with other charter schools and maintaining the status quo on union rights and the parties’ grievance and discipline procedures,” said Carlos Jaramillo, chief operating officer of Instituto del Progreso Latino, which runs both schools, in a statement Tuesday.
In his statement, Jaramillo accused teachers of not bargaining in good faith and said, “all CTU wants is more power to further their own political agenda.”
Due to mismanagement and lack of competitive wages, Instituto has lost “a number of veteran teachers,” said Louis Lucas, a science teacher.
“We’re woefully understaffed in almost every department. We cannot keep people that we’re hiring, because we’re not offering them a competitive wage,” Lucas said. “It’s become a revolving door.”
In Lucas’ department, he said there were 14 science teachers when he started in 2015. Now, there are four. The workload for teachers has increased considerably, he said.
“We’re particularly saddened because this school could be much better than what it is,” he said.
Teachers don’t feel the administration respects them, Spanish teacher Eva Arcentales said. Arcentales, who has worked at Instituto Health Science Career Academy for 14 years, said the school is not what it once was. Arcentales said that in recent years she’s seen enrollment decrease and academic development decline.
“The administration of this school doesn’t care about education. Even though they know that Instituto de Progreso Latino has a mission to serve the Latino community, they don’t care about education of our community,” she said.
CTU members and representatives of Instituto del Progreso Latino were in a bargaining session Tuesday. If a contract is not agreed upon, teachers will continue striking outside of the schools Wednesday morning.
“We will be here every day until we get a contract,” O’Donnell said.