Educators prepare for 1st day of school amid debate

September 4, 2011 (CHICAGO)

After throwing out the first pitch at Sunday afternoon's Cubs game, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard once again reminded everyone about the importance of attending the first day of class.

"We're excited about school opening on Tuesday. We're hoping to remind all parents and students of the importance of the first day and the importance of attendance," Brizard said.

The hope is that free rides offered by the CTA on the first day of instruction will help get kids back to school. How long students remain in school, however, is still an issue with the Chicago Teachers Union.

As a part of the union's Labor in the Pulpit weekend, CTU President Karen Lewis spoke to a South Side church congregation Sunday morning about the union's position regarding longer school days. On Friday, teachers at three schools broke with the union contract and agreed to the new schedule that adds 40 minutes more of both math and reading each day.

"It can't just be reading, writing and arithmetic. It's got to be music and art and civics and science and world languages because we have to talk with everybody," Lewis said.

Although Mayor Rahm Emanuel has lauded teachers for putting kids first, critics of the plan say a longer school day doesn't necessarily mean a better quality education.

"We're not against the extended school day -- it's just how it's being used in terms of planning. It shouldn't be used for babysitting and security," said Rev. Gregory Livingston, Misson of Faith Baptist Church.

Meanwhile, the reverend Chris Harris lead his Bright Star Church members in prayer as dozens of faith leaders plan to be at schools across the city to call for a safe and successful school year. It's a part of Tuesday's Million Father March movement.

"Until you get parents, fathers and communities involved in the education of children, we're going to keep getting the same dismal results," said Phillip Jackson, The Black Star Project.

CTU has filed a grievance against the district accusing them of getting principals to force their educators to accept an extended schedule.

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