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Noble Charter School Staff Seek To Unionize

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Teachers at the Noble Network of Charter School told their employer Friday morning that they intend to unionize at the city's largest charter school network.

And if they succeed, the chain of 17 schools named for the city's elite, including the sitting governor and current school board president, could become the biggest charter school union in the country, the Chicago Sun-Times is reporting.

"Today, we the Union of Noble Educators are announcing our effort to organize teachers and staff across the @benobleschools!" they wrote on Twitter.

"We are passionate, committed, professional teachers and staff with diverse experiences in the Noble Network of Charter Schools," they wrote in an open letter signed so far by 140 of more than 800 staffers. "We see our students every day and know they are better served by a lasting staff that can advocate for their schools. To this end, we seek a voice at Noble and beyond."

Superintendent Michael Milkie released a statement saying, "We respect the rights of individuals to organize or not organize, and we will continue to address concerns of teachers, staff, parents, and all members of the Noble community.

"In my experience as a former CPS teacher, I believe a restrictive union contract could eliminate the curriculum and flexibility we have to best serve our students' needs," he wrote.

Publicly-funded privately-managed charter schools were founded on the idea that educators free of school district and teachers union bureaucracy would be able to improve schools through innovation. But in recent years, the Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff or ChiACTS have been organizing and signing contracts with teachers and staff at 32 of the city's charter schools- about a quarter total.

At least two of the unions have threatened to strike, and the one at Aspira schools next week will announce its strike date.

The charter unions are separate from the Chicago Teachers Union.

"I hope the Noble CEO, principals and Board of Directors grant these educators the respect they have earned and do not interfere with this process, for it is very important that they are free to organize to create the type of learning community and environment that all of Chicago's children deserve."

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