CHICAGO—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement after more than 500 educators at Chicago’s Acero charter school network struck yesterday over better teaching and learning conditions for children and fair pay for themselves. It is the first-ever strike by charter school educators in U.S. history. Weingarten was on the picket line alongside the striking teachers and paraprofessionals, who are members of the Chicago Teachers Union, the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the AFT.
“This strike is about educators fighting for the teaching and learning conditions kids need, no matter what public school they attend. It’s why the broader education community in Chicago and throughout the country is standing shoulder to shoulder with them.
“Just like their peers who walked out for their students this year, the Acero educators would rather be in the classroom teaching, but they made the collective decision to use their union as a vehicle to stand up for what’s right: sanctuary supports, special education resources, career ladders for paraprofessionals, smaller class sizes and comparable wages so their schools can retain good teachers year after year.
“Educators want the same things for their kids no matter where they teach—whether it’s a district school or a charter school, whether it’s in West Virginia or Chicago. They want to feel like they have the support and resources they need to help their students become engaged citizens of the world. Teachers walk out for their kids when they’re left with no other choice.
“This strike is also about questioning a charter school model that seeks to run education as a business rather than a contribution to our kids’ futures. Acero executives are more interested in profits than students: Acero’s income stream of public dollars has risen by more than $10 million this year, while management has slashed support for frontline services by more than $1 million. Meanwhile, educators are paid less than their Chicago Public Schools colleagues, despite working a longer day and longer year in crowded classrooms.
“The key to a vibrant, strong school community is a strong teaching force in the classroom—with educators who have a voice and are paid fairly, special education programs that are fairly funded, class sizes that are small enough to meet students’ needs, immigrant kids who are protected, and restorative justice practices that respect the diversity of the families who live there.
“In this country, we make a commitment to educate every child the same way, no matter where they live and what school they go to. These teachers are walking that walk, and it’s time management gave them the tools they need to do it.”