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Why my charter school needs a union

By Dave Woo - Urban Prep Charter School teacher

Why does my charter school need a union? In a word: accountability. After having worked at Chicago’s Urban Prep Charter Academy for six years, I have serious concerns about how resources are allocated by my own charter network. And my research into whether charter schools are truly public or private entities under the law has convinced me that these problems aren’t confined to schools like Urban Prep or Chicago’s UNO network. There are serious questions that need to be asked about the lack of accountability for charter school operators. Having a union at charters schools will force operators to think twice before doing anything that isn’t in the best interest of students.

Shining a light

When a majority of teachers and staff at Urban Prep decided to organize a union represented by the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff, one of the first actions we took was to file a FOIA request in order to get a better sense of how the Urban Prep network uses the tax dollars and private donations it receives. Here are some of the things we found:

  1. Urban Prep spends over a quarter of a million dollars a year renting out downtown office space across the street from the Trump International Hotel and Tower for the network administrative staff.

  2. Urban Prep spends $70,000 dollars every year to take all of its staff to St. Charles, IL (a far west suburb almost an hour away from Urban Prep’s closest campus) for a network retreat.

  3. Urban Prep pays its principals salaries that are comparable to the salaries Chicago Public Schools principals, but pays first year teachers  $10,000 less on average than what the average CPS teacher earns.

  4. Urban Prep pays Tim King $220,000 to run 3 schools while the CEO of CPS earns $250,000 to run a district of nearly 200 schools. Since January 2014, Urban Prep has paid just over $100,000 to public relations firms. 

Click here to continue reading about charter school waste and and how unionization can lead to a solution at  




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