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Teachers plan largest charter teachers union in Windy City

Seeking a voice in decisions, stability in schools and the best possible future for students

If educators in Chicago’s Noble Network of Charter Schools get their way, they will soon compose the largest unionized charter school network in the nation.

The Noble charter network operates 17 schools across Chicago, employing about 800 teachers and staff.

In March, Noble educators joined together to begin the unionizing process, saying it would help them better advocate for students’ needs and ultimately improve the quality of education. As private entities, charter schools don’t commonly hire unionized teachers.

“We want a voice in decisions, stability in our schools and, most importantly, the best possible future for our students. Under current local and national conditions, educators labor to remain in their classrooms while our value is diminished, our capacity drained, and our power constrained,” the group wrote in an open letter to Noble CEO and Superintendent Michael Milkie.

As a consequence, Milkie issued a statement to the Noble teachers in early March that “a restrictive union contract could eliminate the curriculum and flexibility we have to best serve our students’ needs.” Public school teacher support Noble’s effort at unionization has earned the support of the Chicago Teachers Union.

“Personally, I am extremely proud of their desire to strengthen their collective voice to better advocate for the students they serve,” union President Karen Lewis said in a recent statement.

Unionized charter teachers are not part of the Chicago Teachers Union, however. They are represented by the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS), a local branch of the American Federation of Teachers.

The proposed Noble union will be a part of ChiACTS, which represents more than 1,100 teachers and staff members at charter school campuses across Chicago. No date had been set for a vote at press time.