Acero teachers, charter school network reach tentative agreement; classes resume Monday

CHICAGO — Classes are back in session at Acero charter schools, after teachers reach a tentative agreement to end a four-day strike.

The nation's first teachers' strike against a charter school operator will end after their union and management struck a tentative deal Sunday that includes protections for students and immigrant families living in the country illegally.

The Chicago Teachers Union said more than 500 teachers will return to classes Monday at Acero's 15 schools, which serve 7,500 predominantly Latino students.

Teachers had demanded more favorable conditions on issues from compensation to class size, and went on strike Tuesday after seven months of negotiations broke down.

“We as teachers, parents, students and community fought for what our students deserve, and we fought for what teachers need," teacher Rachel Poracky-Weir said Sunday.

Poracky-Weir and hundreds of other teachers from the Acero network, all members of CTU, rallied at Union Hall Sunday to claim victory after the nearly week-long strike.

Andy Crooks, a member of the CTU bargaining team, says Acero teachers were paid much less than Chicago Public Schools teachers, even though they work longer days and a longer school year.

“Today our students and families have won,” Crooks said. “We won all of those things because of all of our members, all of our families and all of our students."

The tentative four-year contract gives them increased compensation with scheduled raises, smaller class sizes, shorter work days, and an improved calendar that more closely aligns with the Chicago Public Schools. Acero said through changes in the way the school day is structured, the schools will preserve the amount of instructional time for students.

Teachers were also asking for Acero to respect “sanctuary schools,” so they wouldn’t be required to provide information to immigration authorities like Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

Robert Bloch, general counsel for the union, said that since the schools' enrollment is "overwhelmingly low-income Latino," the union felt it was necessary to have provisions to protect students, their families and teachers who may be living in the country illegally.

The agreement prohibits Acero from collecting and distributing information about the immigration status of students, teachers and families and restricts access by ICE to schools except by court order, he said.

The deal was struck just before 5 a.m. Sunday. CTU members still must vote on the deal, but with a tentative agreement in place, classes are expected to be back in session Monday morning.

"We know it has been a difficult week for everyone, especially our Acero students and families. We thank them for their patience and understanding throughout this process," Acero schools CEO Richard L. Rodriguez said in a statement.

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