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Teachers to announce strike date at one of Chicago’s oldest charter schools

by Passages Council  |  05/18/2017

Union educators at Passages Charter School will rally before their next bargaining session on Friday -- and announce a strike date. The announcement will come at a 4:00 PM rally at Passages Charter School, 1643 W. Bryn Mawr on Chicago’s north side.

The strike would be the first in the nation at a charter school. Teachers voted unanimously to strike on May 4, after a year of bargaining with management has failed to produce a fair contract.

ILLUSTRATION: Passages

Passages was one of the first charter schools created in Chicago, and today serves just under 500 students -- including a large population of immigrant and refugee students of Asian and African heritage. Passages 46 union teachers, teaching assistants and paraprofessionals were certified last April as members of ChiACTS Local 4343, which represents educators at 32 Chicago charter schools. The school’s educators have been negotiating for a new contract since last May.

The most recently available tax documents show that the current and former former CEOs of AHS -- Asian Human Services, the agency that runs Passages -- together earned $540,000 -- more than twice that of Forrest Claypool, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools and its 400,000 students. The combined current salaries for Passages’ 46 bargaining unit members is $1.7 million.

AHS spends a greater percentage of the Passages budget on management costs and a lower percentage on direct student and personnel costs than every other single- site charter in the city except one. The average single-site charter spends a quarter on management and overhead for every dollar they spend on school staff and students, whereas Passages spends fifty cents for every dollar.

Passages is also an outlier when it comes to teacher salaries, with teachers earning 20% less than teachers at other Chicago charters. Management has also proposed eliminating paid maternity and paternity leave -- at a workplace where the vast majority of employees are women. In addition, management has cut classes that include music and Spanish -- which, along with Urdu, is the language most commonly spoken by immigrant students -- and failed to fulfill promises to create recreational programs like basketball for students.

Besides asking for more fair compensation, teachers are calling for greater fiscal oversight at the school -- including improvements in the percentage of dollars that management spends on students instead of on its own compensation.

Passages has no income outside of what it collects from CPS, and union members charge that the disparity in salaries for Passages educators and those at other charters is driven by AHS mismanagement of funds and the fact that AHS simply does not contribute enough to the school’s budget from its own funds. Chicago’s other single-site charters typically provide 5-10% of their financial resources from private fundraising revenue -- a practice touted in the early days of the CPS push for charters as a way to harness private dollars to support publicly funded education. Passages raises zero dollars from private fundraising revenue. 

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