Amid Chicago Teachers Strike, Some Parents Mull Private, Charter Schools
With a Chicago Public School teachers strike in its fourth day on Thursday, some parents are looking into possible alternatives including charter or private schools.
“We’re seeing some uptick in inquiries,” said Sister Mary Paul McCaughey, superintendent of Catholic Schools at the Archdiocese of Chicago.
UNO Charter School Network, which runs non-union, publicly-funded schools, has taken in 30 new students since the strike by 29,000 public school teachers was announced, according to CEO Juan Rangel of the United Neighborhood Organization, a Latino community group.
“I assume that number is going to increase,” said Rangel, who was co-chair of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s election campaign. “They (parents) want their kids in school. They don’t want to have them out on the street.”
The head of the Chicago Teachers Union said Thursday they were close to reaching a deal to end the strike in the nation’s third-largest school district over education reforms sought by Emanuel. But it was unlikely students would be back in school before Monday, even if an agreement is reached Thursday.
The strike affecting 350,000 elementary and high school students is the biggest in the United States in the last year.
While school has been out, parents have sought alternative care for their children at local churches, with relatives, or at “Children First” programs at 147 public schools, which have taken in children for activities for half a day for the first three days, and a full day starting Thursday.
More than 50,000 Chicago public school children have not been affected by the strike, because they go to charters. These schools have been promoted by Emanuel, who said 19,000 more students want seats at charter schools than are currently available. The union criticizes Emanuel’s push for charter schools, believing they undermine public education.