Chicago Teachers Union killing charter school access for many families

Chicago Teachers Union killing charter school access for many families

The Chicago Teachers Union’s current contract limits the growth of charter schools in Chicago. The union’s new contract demands seek to further deny access and limit parents’ options for their children’s educations.

The Chicago Teachers Union has a history of denying access to charter schools for Chicago families, so the push to inflict greater damage through its new contract is sadly expected.

Illinois’ charter school law was passed in 1996 to allow the authorization of charter schools to “create new, innovative and more flexible ways of educating children within the public school system.” Those ideals are the opposite of what CTU wants. It has forced cumbersome regulations on charter schools, burdening their operations and limiting their growth.

The current CTU contract already places a moratorium on adding charter schools and capping enrollment. CTU’s demands for the new contract would further limit enrollment at charter schools and continue to deny access to Chicago students and families who want to take advantage of a different public-school option than traditional public schools.

CTU is also demanding the school board adopt a clear transition procedure for charter and contract school closures and reabsorptions. The union is obviously preparing for the ultimate shut-down of charter schools in Chicago.

Charter schools are thriving nationwide

Charter schools offer a free, public education with greater autonomy given to administrators and educators over the operations and management of the school. They allow for more innovation while remaining accountable to families and the state. A study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University found charter students outperform their peers at traditional public schools.

According to research by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, “Looking at raw numbers, charter schools enrolled nearly 10 times the number of new students as district schools in the last school year. This represents meaningful growth for charter schools, especially considering that charter schools only serve 7.5% of the nation’s public-school students.”

Charter schools are thriving across many states with enrollment increasing nationwide. But in Illinois, teachers unions and lawmakers have placed burdensome limits on charter schools.

CTU works to hinder charter school growth and innovation

Illinois’ charter school law already imposes a limit on the total number of charter schools allowed to operate at any one time in the state.

The law currently caps the number of charter schools at 120, with no more than 70 allowed to operate in cities with a population over 500,000, meaning Chicago. However, many charter schools operate multiple campuses under the same charter agreement.

In the most recent 2022-2023 school year data available from the Illinois State Board of Education, there were over 37,000 students enrolled in 131 charter school campuses in Illinois. Of that, 116 were in Chicago.

Yet CTU has fought to further cap charter school growth – both in collective bargaining agreements and through lobbying.

In negotiating the past two teacher contracts with Chicago Public Schools, CTU required a moratorium on the growth of charter schools. The current contract provides:

“There will be a net zero increase in the number of Board authorized charter schools over the term of this agreement and the total number of students enrolled by the 2023-24 school year will not exceed 101% of the total student enrollment capacity as of school year 2019-20.”

In other words, CTU works to prevent the growth of charter schools and the number of students who can choose them.

The union works against charter schools in Springfield as well, even fighting an effort to help high-school dropouts.

CTU opposedbill that would have allowed four-year universities in Chicago to serve as the authorizer for a multi-site charter school devoted exclusively to re-enrolled high school dropouts. It has also opposed bills removing the cap on the total number of charter schools that can operate statewide and bills raising the minimum funding for charter schools.

CTU hasn’t limited its fight against Chicago charters. The union also lobbied in favor of a bill extending a moratorium on the creation of charter schools that have virtual-schooling components – even though the bill only affected charters in school districts outside of Chicago. It also worked in favor of a bill prohibiting the opening of a charter school in any ZIP code in which a public school was closed in the previous 10 years. It also wanted to prohibit opening charter schools in ZIP codes contiguous to a ZIP code where a public school was closed.

Clearly, this lobbying against the growth and flourishing of charter schools by CTU impacts the whole state, limiting parents’ options from East St. Louis to Rockford.

CTU lobbied for union neutrality agreement which places burdens on charter schools

CTU further hampered the autonomy of charter schools when it lobbied in favor of a union neutrality bill.  Gov. J.B. Pritzker signedunion neutrality clause into Illinois’ charter school law on Aug. 4, 2023. It means charter school operators will be required to, in effect, support a union’s attempt to organize its staff, making it easier for unions in Illinois to unionize charter schools.

Charter schools were designed to combat union demands and improve public education while maintaining autonomy and, most importantly, innovation. “The hallmark of the charter movement is innovation,” said Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools. “And it’s hard to innovate when you’re bound by a very restrictive contract.”

The unionization of charter schools not only restricts innovation but also forces many families who had fled the militant tactics of teachers unions in public schools to once again submit to those unions’ whims.

Many students, parents and teachers in Chicago charters were historically spared the militant tactics and extreme demands of CTU. But CTU merged with the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff in 2018, forcing CTU’s agenda onto the charter schools represented by the charter union.

Later that year, CTU made history by organizing the first charter school strike in the nation at Chicago’s Acero Schools charter network. The strike canceled class for more than 7,000 students in 15 charter schools, where more than 90% of students were Hispanic.

Families deserve options in the public school system

CTU’s latest demands mean parents’ choices will be further limited in choosing the education that is best for their children. If ratified in the new contract, “the total number of student enrolled by the 2027-28 school year will not exceed 100% of the total student enrollment capacity as of school year 2023-24” compared to allowing a little growth in the current contract.

Parents ought to have the opportunity to enroll their children in the schools that best fit their needs. Charter schools offer an alternative to traditional public schools while still being a free, public-school option for Chicago families. Chicago should expand access to public schooling options by eliminating the cap on the number of charter schools and charter school students – not kowtow to a teachers union that has a history of working against parents’ interests so it can further its own political goals.

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