Acero charter school network should add, not remove, special education positions, union says



Union leaders and concerned parents are calling a decision by the city’s second-largest charter school system to cut around two dozen special education positions “unreasonable.”

At a time when parents struggle with distance learning, Acero schools have chosen to make cuts when they should be adding positions, union leaders said on a Zoom conference call Tuesday. Acero called the claim to halve staff “categorically false.”

“I want to be really very clear: Acero chooses to cut positions that serve our most vulnerable student population. They told us several times that it was not financially motivated, ”said Caroline Rutherford, union representative for Acero schools.

Rutherford accused Acero of having saved “a few pennies on the backs of our students”.

Acero has cut 26 positions – about half of the special education jobs in the organization’s 15 schools – in recent months, union leaders said. The cuts came from a combination of layoffs and not filling vacancies, they said.

“As educators, we know that relationships are at the heart of what we do,” said Maggie Meter, Special Education Case Manager at Acero. “An adult at school can make a difference in a student’s educational career.

Acero issued a statement Tuesday, calling criticism of the union an “organized disinformation campaign that breeds fear and division.”

“On October 2, Acero schools announced a staff reduction affecting 11 paraprofessional positions,” the statement said. “Ten people are directly impacted by this reduction, the remaining post being vacant. This reduction is the result of the drop in registrations and usable minutes. Acero serves 7,050 students, 80 fewer than last school year and 450 fewer than the previous year.

Acero teachers made headlines in 2018 when they became the first charter school teachers in the country to go on strike – in search of smaller classes, with equal pay to teachers in schools. district-run schools, as well as more funding for special education.

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz at 7416 N. Ridge Blvd. at Rogers Park, one of the 15 schools in the Acero Schools network.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia / Sun-Times



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