City council, teachers union meet behind closed doors

October 3, 2011 3:18:41 PM PDT
The battle over a longer day for Chicago Public Schools escalates as Chicago Teachers Union officials hold private meetings with aldermen to discuss their position on the idea.

The teacher's union has issues with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's call for a longer school day, but teachers at more than a dozen Chicago schools have already agreed to longer days against their union's wishes.

The teacher's union says they were blindsided by a resolution signed by Chicago aldermen that supports longer school days. So Monday's closed door meetings with several aldermen are chances for the union to build relationships and to have another entity to discuss important issues with.

Adding 90-minutes to the school day, as proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has generated strong opposition from the Chicago Teachers Union, which lobbied against the plan with the same intensity that the mayor pushed for it.

"This started as a political football when our 4 percent raise was denied us and then this was crammed down our throats. And people don't like that," Karen Lewis, Chicago Teachers Union, said.

But lengthening the school day has the support of the majority of Chicago aldermen, who approved a non-binding resolution about it earlier this month. Now, the teachers union seems to be accepting the inevitable.

"The longer school day is coming. it will be here. There's no doubt about that. That's what this mayor has said he wants, that's what he's going to get," Lewis said.

Lewis reached out to aldermen, inviting them to closed door meetings today to discuss how best to implement the extra 90-minutes. Those in attendance said they didn't want the issue of a longer school day to get in the way of children learning.

"When you're the alderman, even though you don't have a formal responsibility for public education, the people of the wards expect you to take a leadership role on these issues," Alderman Will Burns, Ward 4, said.

"Let's put our differences aside, let's do what's in the best interest of the kids, 'cause at the end of the day every minute counts when we're trying to educate kids every single day," Ald. Anthony Beale, Ward 9, said.

So far, 13 schools have extended their school days by 90-minutes. Chicago Public Schools are looking to expand increase that number and issued a statement: We are hopeful that the CTU will accept our offer to work in collaboration with us to choose the next 25 schools that will begin the longer day this January...and will take the opportunity to discuss this today as their leadership is assembled to address this very issue with aldermen.

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