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

Union leaders and their supporters are calling “unconscionable” a decision by the city’s second-largest charter school system’s to slash about two dozen special education positions.

At a time when parents are struggling with remote learning, Acero Schools has chosen to make cuts when they should be adding positions, union leaders said during a Zoom conference call Tuesday. Acero called the claim of cutting staff by half “categorically false.”

“I want to be really, really clear: Acero is choosing to cut positions that serve our most vulnerable population of students. They have told us repeatedly that this is not financially motivated,” said Caroline Rutherford, a union rep for Acero schools.

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

Acero has cut 26 positions — about half of the special education jobs across the organization’s 15-school system — in recent months, union leaders said. The cuts have come through a combination of layoffs and not filling open positions, they said.

“As educators, we know that relationships are at the heart of what we do,” said Maggie Meter, a special education case manager with Acero. “One adult in the school can make the difference in a student’s educational career.”

Acero issued a statement Tuesday, calling the union’s criticisms “an organized misinformation campaign that engenders fear and division.”

“On Oct. 2, Acero Schools announced a staffing reduction impacting 11 paraprofessional positions,” the statement read. “Ten individuals are directly impacted by this reduction, as the remaining position was vacant. This reduction is a result of declining enrollment and serviceable minutes. Acero serves 7,050 scholars, 80 fewer than last school year and 450 fewer than the year before.”

Acero teachers made headlines in 2018 when they became the first charter school teachers in the nation to go on strike — seeking smaller classes, equal pay to teachers at district-run schools, as well as more special education funding.

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