Urban Prep Academies teachers go on strike; fight for parity with CPS

Chicago News

CHICAGO As the school year winds down, teachers for the three campuses of Urban Prep Academies planned to go on strike Monday, citing drastically lower pay than their CPS counterparts and a need for more classroom resources and benefits.

The decision comes after contract negotiations broke down over the weekend.

The three campuses of the all-boys Urban Prep Academy enroll approximately 650 students and routinely posts high college acceptance rates.

The Chicago Teachers Union began contract talks back in November 2018, discussing the need for more resources at the charter school, better pay and health insurance and special education resources.

“It’s been more than three years of bargaining,” said CTU president Jesse Sharkey. “Three years.”

The starting salary for teachers at Urban Prep Academies is approximately $11,000 lower than their CPS counterparts. The union also filed an unfair labor practice charge for refusal to release key financial information.

Teachers voted last month to authorize a strike.

“We were rooting for you, Urban Prep. We were all rooting for you,” said CTU attorney Latoyia Kimbrough. “No one wants to see you fail. We can get a fair contract.”

Both sides returned to the negotiating table Monday afternoon, with one of the major sticking points being the duration of the contract. Urban Prep wants to sign a deal that goes another three years, adding up to six years in total.

The union says it’ll sign an agreement but only through the end of the 2022 academic year.

In a statement, Urban Prep said, in part: “A one-year contract would mean that the negotiation process will start again in a matter of months. That is not in the best interest of teachers or the students for whom we all are working.”

On Monday, Urban Prep teachers said they were fighting for parity, not only for them but for their students three out of 10 who require some form of a special education resource.

“Urban Prep has access to the same finances but for some reason we’re not receiving that pay,” said Ashlee Lewis, a teacher at the school. “I absolutely love my students and they deserve to have the resources they need in the classroom and funding that Urban Prep has access to but it’s not hitting the classrooms they way it should be.” 

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