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Roberto Clemente Elementary is one of 15 charter schools in Chicago run by Acero Schools.

Striking teachers reach deal with Chicago charter school network

Employees at 15 campuses run by Acero Schools, walked off the job last week in search of better pay and working conditions.

Educators for a charter school network in Chicago have returned to their classrooms after reaching a tentative contract agreement with management.

The Chicago Tribune reports that more than 500 teachers and support staff are back on the 15 campuses operated by Acero Schools after walking off the job last week and missing four days of school.

The walkout was the first time that charter school teachers have resorted to a strike.

Acero employees will vote in the coming weeks on the contract proposal, which promises better pay and hours for teachers as well as smaller class sizes and sanctuary school protections for the majority Latino student body.

The tentative agreement was reached about 5 a.m. Sunday. Acero management has also dropped a complaint it filed against the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, a spokeswoman says.

The strike garnered national headlines and came at a time when the charter school movement in Chicago seems to be stalling. At last week’s school board meeting, members voted to close two non-Acero charter schools at the end of the school year and deny three pending applications to open new elementary and high school charter campuses.

“What we’ve learned is that … working in a charter school poses some particular problems," says Chris Baehrend, the CTU charter division chair. "Our employers have business interests, and sometimes those are in conflict with our students’ interests. We are going to push back and change the charter school industry so they stop exploiting our students, and we are going to defend public education, and our students are going to have better lives.”

Acero charter schools, the rebranded name of a 15-school network previously known as the UNO Charter School Network, narrowly avoided a strike in 2016.

Not everyone, however, was happy with the strike settlement or the union's involvement.

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools says the CTU's political interests and motives were not in the best interests of students.

“While the CTU attempts to stifle charter growth and limit innovation and flexibility in the classroom, INCS will continue working to preserve these values and partner with charter public schools to enable students to succeed in the classroom and in life,” spokeswoman Melissa Ramirez Cooper said.

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