ASPIRA charter network teachers overwhelmingly vote to strike

SUN-TIMES MEDIA WIRE - The union representing more than 100 teachers, counselors and educational support staff in the four-school ASPIRA charter network voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike Wednesday afternoon, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

Of the 93 votes cast, 92 were in favor of striking, according to ChiACTS Local 4343 spokeswoman Chris Geovanis.

No strike deadline has been set, Geovanis said, and negotiations — ongoing for nearly a year — will not stop.

“They’re going directly back into bargaining tomorrow,” she said. “The hope is this sends a strong enough message to management that they’re serious.”

The ASPIRA network operates a middle school and three high schools on the Northwest Side. A strike by ASPIRA teachers would be the first at a charter school anywhere in the country.

The strike vote was prompted by what the union called a “lack of transparency and accountability in finances and foundering leadership at the network’s most senior levels, threatening conditions in classrooms.”

ASPIRA teachers said they blame the network’s struggles solely on board chairman Fernando Grillo, who has been in charge for seven years.

“In the last 6 weeks alone, the charter network’s CEO and Chief Academic Officer have been removed, only one principal who started the school year remains in that position, and the system’s COO — who had essentially been running the charter school network — recently resigned,” the teacher’s union said in a statement Monday.

Grillo, in a statement posted on the ASPIRA website, said the board has been negotiating with teachers since Spring 2016 and “the only item that remains unsolved is salaries.”

“We want to make one thing perfectly clear: Nothing is more important that the education of our students and we continue to stand ready, willing and able to negotiate at a moment’s notice,” he said.

Last year, Chicago’s UNO network of charter schools narrowly avoided a strike, just days after the Chicago Teachers Union reached an agreement with Chicago Public Schools that averted the union’s second strike since 2012.