The Buzz: Charter Teachers Vote to Authorize Strikes; New Leadership at Ogden-Jenner

It’s been a big week for school news in Chicago, starting with new state report cards and new Chicago Public Schools ratings–that don’t match. A data breach that compromised 80,000 people’s personal information.

But we’ll focus on two late-breaking stories: the strike authorization vote being held today by teachers at four schools within Chicago International Charter Schools, Chicago’s largest charter network, and the news that Principal Michael Beyer has been “reassigned” from his duties at Ogden International, the K-12 school that recently merged with Jenner Elementary.

First, the strike vote, which is likely to approve possible use of a strike should contract negotiations fail between ChiActs and CICS. Teachers at another large charter network, Acero Schools (formerly known as the UNO Charter Schools Network), voted Tuesday to authorize a strike, with 98 percent of the votes in favor. Union sources expect the vote to look similar at the four unionized CICS schools.

Chicago is home to the earliest and largest charter teacher organizing effort in the country. In 2007, the American Federation of Teachers launched the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, or ChiACTS, a federated union that allows teachers within each bargaining unit to negotiate with their employer. Developing a new union with this structure was a workaround to avoid running afoul of Illinois state law, which officially bars charter teachers from joining the Chicago Teachers Union. By 2015, the share of Chicago charter teachers in unions had reached 20 percent, compared to 11 percent nationally. Thanks to continued organizing efforts, including a recent union drive at Namaste Charter School, that share is higher today.

Earlier this year, ChiACTS merged with the CTU. The strike authorization votes accompany the new union’s first contract negotiations. As reported by In These Times, CICS Northtown math teacher Jen Conant suggested that the current charter teacher negotiations, which include demands not just for better pay and benefits but for more counselors, social workers and nurses, could become a model for upcoming negotiations between the CTU and CPS leadership.

Ogden’s Beyer “Benched” for Gaming Attendance; Parents Cry, “Retaliation!”

Yesterday, parents received a letter saying that Ogden Principal Michael Beyer would be reassigned due to a report from the CPS Office of the Inspector General, which said Ogden administrators had falsified attendance records. WTTW obtained a redacted copy of the report, which indicated that parents were encouraged to unenroll their children and re-enroll them after extended vacations, which would keep unexcused absences off Ogden’s records.

Beyer is known for his shepherding the unusual merger of Ogden with Jenner Elementary. This school year, Ogden International, a overcrowded, diverse school with affluent demographics, merged with Jenner, an under enrolled school that has historically served Black families living in public housing. The district took a long time to warm up to the proposal, and parent sources have expressed concern that the removal of Beyer smacks of some form of political retaliation.

On Monday night at 6 p.m. on Ogden’s East Campus, CPS will hold a meeting for parents to “discuss the leadership change.”

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Maureen Kelleher

Chicago Unheard blog manager Maureen Kelleher also serves as a senior writer and editor at brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. Before joining the brightbeam team, she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of a middle-schooler. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

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