Teachers at the Acero charter school network went on strike early Tuesday, planning to walk the picket line in what the Chicago Teachers Union called the first strike against a charter operator in U.S. history.
A total of roughly 500 CTU members are on strike, all teachers, paraprofessionals and support staff at Acero's 15 charter schools across Chicago.
Educators planned to walk the picket line at Veterans Memorial Charter School Campus on the city's Southwest Side Tuesday.
Bargaining ended without a deal shortly after midnight, CTU said in a statement, with teachers and paraprofessionals saying management has "failed to move" on isses including class sizes, special education staff, resources and more.
The union wants a contract that supports a higher wage for paraprofessionals, with CTU leaders saying they make about $13,000 less per year than the union's members at Chicago Public Schools.
The teachers also want additional resources for their classrooms and students, claiming that the school network spent $1 million less in staff salary costs for program services than in 2017, wants to keep class sizes at 32 students, and won't provide educators with more lesson planning time, among other issues.
"We are very disappointed that union leaders have put their anti-charter political agenda ahead of the interest of our students," Acero CEO Richard Rodriguez said.
"There’s absolutely no good reason to put students and parents through the upheaval of a strike. We value our teachers and staff and have made every effort to reach a fair and reasonable agreement, that also maintains the attributes of our network that produces strong educational outcomes for our students," he continued, adding, "The union is striking because they are insisting on removing students from our classrooms."
"The sad fact is that interest from outside of our community are using our students and our schools to advance their national anti-charter school platform. They don’t want our schools to succeed because it doesn’t serve their agenda. It appears that it’s always been the CTU’s intent to force a strike," Rodriguez said.
Classes at all 15 Acero schools in Chicago were canceled Tuesday, impacting roughly 7,500 students.
Acero schools notified parents, suggesting organizations in the community that could help keep kids engaged during the day. Breakfast and lunch will still be served at the schools, with boxed meals available for pick-up as well.
The Acero strike marks the first against a charter school network in the nation's history. It was not clear if any additional negotiations had been scheduled.
The Acero strike began the same day that teachers in suburban Geneva hit the picket lines in a separate strike over their contract negotiations.