Chicago Public Schools, teachers union reach tentative agreement

July 24, 2012 4:23:19 PM PDT
A tentative agreement between the Chicago Teachers Union and the school board would have Chicago Public Schools students in class longer without their teachers having to work a significantly longer day.

The compromise came after school officials backed down from their requirement that teachers work the longer day. Instead, CPS says it will hire hundreds of new teachers to cover those extended hours. How CPS will pay for it all remains unclear.

"This is a great day for the City of Chicago," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "It's a great day for its taxpayers, its parents, and most importantly, for its students."

The tentative agreement paves the way for the mayor's long-promised longer school day.

For elementary students, CPS says the day will now last seven hours, an increase of 75 minutes a day. For high school students, it's a seven and a half hour day, four days a week, an increase of 36 minutes.

One day a week, high school students will get out 75 minutes early so teachers can plan their curriculum.

"This is a great day for the kids of the City of Chicago. This is about them and what they need to do to be successful," said Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.

"We've succeeded in providing a full school day for our children and an enriched school day for our children," said Chicago School Board President David Vitale.

As part of the agreement, current CPS teachers will not be required to work a significantly longer day.

Instead, CPS plans to hire 477 additional teachers at the cost of $40 to $50 million.

The mayor declined to offer specifics Tuesday on where the money will come from at a time when the school system is nearly $700 million in the hole.

"We're going to work through those issues to make sure that we obviously find the savings to achieve our goal," Emanuel said.

When the mayor first touted the longer school day last year, he singled out math and reading as subjects to be taught during the extra time, but officials said Tuesday that principals would be given discretion.

"Whether they be additional math, science, or in fact enrichment programs around arts and music," said Vitale.

Officials acknowledge that some issues surrounding the tentative agreement, but offered no specifics. Come August 13, the start of year-round school, officials say class will be in session.

It is unusual during contentious contract negotiations for both sides to stop in the middle and call a news conference to talk about their progress, but the issue of a longer school day was a big sticking point, and this compromise allows both sides to get what they say they wanted.

Teachers union leaders have had their game faces on for months as they have continued to negotiate for a new contract with the school board. An overwhelming majority of the union voted to authorize a strike, something teachers say they hope to avoid.

Just last week teachers and the board both rejected an independent fact finder's recommendations. His proposal would have lengthened the school day and given teachers a significant raise.

CTU President Karen Lewis said nothing about salary Tuesday, but she did say this agreement on the longer school day is a significant sign of progress.

"Because we both won," said Lewis. "That's the whole point. That's what a contract is, right? It should be win-win. So, we're just gonna fight each other forever? C'mon, let's roll on."

Teachers union leaders say it is very significant that the board has agreed to give first shot at those 477 new positions to union teachers that have been laid off over the last three years. Most of those positions are music and PE teachers.


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