Emanuel wants to lengthen CPS school day

April 15, 2011 4:30:55 PM PDT
Chicago's Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is taking a very tough stance with the Chicago Teachers Union.

The big questions: Where does Chicago get the money to pay its teachers to work a longer day? Or, foes the mayor-elect expect teachers to work more hours without additional pay?

"We will have a longer school day of instructional time and a longer school year so the kids of Chicago aren't cheated as they are today," said Emanuel.

Emanuel seemed not to worry that he might be getting ahead of himself. In Springfield, only the Illinois Senate has approved the longer school day, and the bill is likely to be changed in the state House of Representatives before being sent to the governor.

When asked from where Chicago would get more money to pay teachers for another hour to 90 minutes in the classroom, the mayor-elected suggested it was time for the teachers union to yield on the length of their members' workday.

"Every year for the last nine years, pay has increased by 4 percent, and instructional time has increased zero for the children of the City of Chicago," Emanuel said.

Emanuel spoke Friday afternoon at the Johnson College Prep Charter School, 6300 S. Stewart, which has just over a seven hours long instructional day. That compares to Chicago public high schools where classroom time ranges between 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours a day.

Emanuel repeated the observation that the Chicago Public Schools offer the lowest amount of daily classroom time among the largest cities in the United States.

"You can compare it to Boston. You can compare it to L.A. and New York. They all have more than Chicago," said Emanuel.

Thursday, in Springfield, the Chicago Teachers Union president joined lawmakers in support of the education reform bill. But, when longer school days have come up in past contract negotiations, the CTU has stood its ground demanding more money.

Emanuel said after the next round of talks, led by his appointees, the union must be made to understand that more classroom time is non-negotiable.

"There are some basic facts that should be established so we have an honest discussion to achieve for our children the instructional time and the instructional length of the year that doesn't keep them at a competitive educational disadvantage," said Emanuel.

Negotiations on a new Chicago teachers union contract will begin later this year only a few months after Emanuel takes office. If the education reform bill is eventually passed by the house and signed by the governor, the CPS and union still must agree on the terms for a longer school day in Chicago.