As strikes continue, charter asks court to order teachers back to school

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CHICAGO — Acero Charter Network teachers and staff continued to strike for a fifth day Saturday, marching along picket lines as the charter provider seeks a court order to send them back to work.

Teachers from 15 Acero schools made history when they walked off the job Tuesday, kicking off the first strike of a charter school in the U.S.

Some of the network's 7,500 students, who have been out of the classroom for four days now, came out to join their teachers over the weekend. Victoria Soto High senior Brittany Villeda said its about returning the favor to teachers who supported her.

“I’m very disappointed because it not fair to our teachers, who have been fighting for us since the start,” Villeda said. "It’s been very cold, you know, but we’ll do anything for our teachers.”

Acero filed an unfair labor practice charge Friday, seeking a court order to bring an end to the strike and send teachers back to work while negotiations continue. In their response, the Chicago Teachers Union said there is nothing illegal about the strike under Federal labor law.

Elected officials with Acero schools in their districts also joined teachers on the picket lines Saturday.

“We know that Acero schools are overwhelmingly Latino, and that is why we’re here today as Latino leaders, demanding the best education for our students,” said Ald. Carlos Rosa (D-35th Ward).

This week has brought some progress during bargaining talks. Acero leaders are agreeing to create a “sanctuary” at its schools to protect students from immigration agents.

“This strike has produced results that will lead to a better education for Acero students. But we’re not there yet,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “We have two main issues that still divide us. Equal pay for equal work and class size.”

Negotiations are expected to continue through the weekend, and the CTU said it plans to hold another rally at its headquarters Sunday afternoon. Sharkey believes the remaining issues can be worked out this weekend.

"We can be back in school on Monday, if and only if we get a commitment to resources into reducing class size. That’s what we need right now. That’s what’s holding us up,” Sharkey said.

Meanwhile, teachers in Geneva and the school board say they made progress during contract negotiations that nearly lasted until midnight Friday. Both sides say they've made concessions, the Daily Herald reports, but did not reach an agreement to end the strike yet.

The biggest disagreement surrounds salaries and the board's proposed "flat raise" salary schedule. They'll return to the bargaining table Sunday afternoon.

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