Deal reached over length of school day

November 4, 2011 7:26:13 PM PDT
Officials and the teachers union announced they reached a deal Friday to lengthen the day of Chicago public school children.

The compromise came just ahead of what was shaping up to be a messy court fight -- one that likely would have resulted in a union win given past decisions. So a meeting was called by the Chicago Teachers Union, which agreed to stop its court fight if Chicago Public Schools (CPS) administrators would quit campaigning for longer days by offering incentives to individual teachers and schools -- an effort which last month had been ruled a violation of the union's contract. To the victor go the spoils, and on this day, that was a role seized by a clearly satisfied teachers union head.

"I think it is a huge victory for us," Karen Lewis said. "It is a huge victory for students and the city of Chicago. This is extraordinarily important. This is an unnecessary dispute. We need to move forward."

Lewis says the school board violated the union contract. She will drop her request for an injunction barring the board from urging more schools to accept a longer day. The board agreed not to ask more schools to do so.

Lewis said the agreement avoids litigation, and sets the stage for longer CPS school days next year based on a broader curriculum, smaller classes -- and respect.

"You can't go around the union to individual members and direct deals. That is anathema to all unions. This is why we have union people here who aren't in our union, they are here in support of the correct process," Lewis said.

In separate votes since summer, faculty at 13 CPS schools voted for 90 extra minutes of class time and had received a 2% wage increase plus $150,000 for their school. CPS CEO Jean Claude Brizard does not regret his tactics in trying to break what he called the status quo.

"Waivers have been done before, in the past. Somehow this became perhaps a bigger sideshow," Brizard said. "This was not about picking a fight. This was about making sure we use the law, the process."

The October 20th ruling from the illinois education labor relations board that cps had violated the teachers union contract by directly offering incentives to teachers brought out non-educational supporters.

"I think it is a win for the unions and I believe that the contract is the backbone of American law," Daniel D. Gorman, Fraternal Order of Police, said.

Brizard said the mayor told him he wanted an agreement -- and Pastor Paul Jakes, Jr., said the mayor's wishes may have helped with that goal, as well as the need to make sure all were heard in this fight.

"I'm very pleased today that the meeting was civil, that they had decent conversation and the children have benefitted today," Jakes said.

"We are now going to have our energy where it belongs- in the classroom, not in the courtroom," Mayor Emanuel said.


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