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Sep 26, 2011: Teachers express concerns as CPS Implements its Ill-Planned “Longer School Days”

Teachers express concerns as CPS Implements its Ill-Planned “Longer School Days”

CHICAGO - A confidential school-by-school analysis conducted by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) reveals that teachers and other classroom professionals at 115 elementary schools voted down the longer school day waiver ballot proposed by the school board.

“These results demonstrate that most union members clearly favor taking the appropriate time necessary to carefully plan for delivering the rich and broad curriculum that our students deserve,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “This longer school day initiative is just another experiment in a long line of experiments over the last two decades.”

There is no strong evidence indicating that student achievement will rise if the school year is lengthened. CTU maintains it is the quality not the quantity of instruction that matters.

CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard’s “longer school day,” initiative is a rebranding of a similar program offered by the Daley administration, then called “Additional Learning Opportunities (ALO).” On August 25, 2010 the Board of Education approved Resolution 10-0825-RS3 which authorized CPS to increase student learning hours in designated schools by requiring students to attend a mandatory 90 additional minutes per day for five days per week, or as otherwise scheduled. At the time Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said the ALO program costs were expected to exceed $10 million. To date, the Board has not provided taxpayers or educators with an assessment of the extended learning time experiment.

Ever since CPS began its recent aggressive public relations campaign to force schools to endorse its longer school day ideology, CTU phones have been flooded with calls from concerned teachers who said they had “received no training or in-service as to how the 90 additional minutes were to be used,” according to one grievance report.

At Henry H. Nash Elementary School, 4837 W. Erie Street, though CTU attorneys declared the vote null-and-void because a school bus driver was asked to break a tie of 14 to 14 in favor of the extended day, the K-thru-8 campus will go to an extended schedule from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. After school programs could see children as young as seven walking home in the winter months well after 6:00 p.m.

Another complaint from Mann Elementary noted: “…(the principal) held a meeting to discuss the possibility of doing a waiver vote. Teachers in attendance agreed to do an informal inquiry. No written plan was submitted for us to study…. We all voted no.”

The waiver process was flawed from the start. Elementary school educators complained of intimidation, coercion and threats of layoffs or school closures if they did not vote in favor of a longer school day. Principals were promised a one-time $150,000 gift to their school if they convinced staff to void parts of their current 2007-2012 labor contract to enact longer work hours this year.

Only teachers were promised a one-time, non-pensionable stipend of 2 percent of the average teacher salary or roughly $1,250 before taxes, among other bribes and incentives. Other school employees receive nothing. CPS has made no guarantees on how it intends to fund and staff all of the city’s elementary schools when the longer school day becomes mandate next year. Even though its longer school day theory will cost upwards of $100 million system-wide, the Board continues to lay-off qualified teachers citing budget concerns.

“Rather than sit down with educators who spend all their work time focused on improving our students’ education, the Board of Education decided to implement a flawed, political process,” said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey. “CPS has essentially given schools a popular slogan and told them to figure it out on their own. Unless there is a comprehensive, well-thought-out academic and funding plan—you will see our 200,000-plus elementary students doing the same things like mindless test prep—but only longer.”

The campaign to implement an ill-planned longer school day, school-by-school, comes on the heels of other attacks on teachers. In June, the Board denied unionized employees their guaranteed contractual 4 percent cost of living increase. After slashing teacher pay, it then raised the CEO’s salary and offered lucrative increases and benefits to other CPS executives totaling millions of dollars.

“Our teachers are dedicated public servants: they educate our kids, watch over their safety and often pay for school supplies out of their own money,” Lewis said. “All we want is the support to do our jobs well, and appropriate compensation. Targeting teachers in this way sends the wrong message and will hurt our students in the end.”

There are 454 elementary schools in Chicago. Only 13 have volunteered to participate in the longer school day experiment. At least 115 CPS elementary schools have taken “informal straw polls” or waiver votes in which teachers voted against the extended day. The remaining schools met the program with silence and indifference. A formal complaint filed with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board will be heard in mid-October.

Chicago Teachers Union