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CTU Calls for CPS to Implement a “Better School Day,” Not Just a Longer One


Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) says Chicago Public Schools (CPS) should focus on implementing a “better school day” for Chicago students, rather than simply planning a longer school day filled with more test preparation. 

CTU President Karen GJ Lewis noted that “quantity is not quality” and explained that education research shows that rather than more time in class a better school day means that our schools should:

  1. Decrease time spent on standardized tests, which consume up to 20 percent of the instructional year;
  2. Increase art, writing, music, science, and physical education; and
  3. Provide teachers with time to plan study units and address individual student learning and behavior needs.

Lewis said that to make an extended school day produce results for elementary school students their curricula and class sizes must mirror those in well-funded school districts and expensive private schools.  “CPS students deserve an equal, high-quality education and any plan to increase instructional hours must include art, music, physical education, civics, a variety of sciences and foreign languages.  They also want to feel safe and welcome.

“It is important for educators, parents and the community to define what a longer school day looks like, and for Chicago taxpayers to know how CPS intends to fund it,” Lewis said. “Our students deserve a smarter school day---one that includes rigorous curriculum options that were stripped from our schools as cost-cutting measures years ago. Our communities also deserve modern, technologically sound neighborhood schools that stimulate learning and offer its employees a safe and decent work environment.

She also added, “CPS says it has a more than $200 million budget shortfall and claims that is why they went back on their word to give us our pay increase.  It seems more and more is put on our plates and nothing is ever taken off.  CPS could fund a better school day if it stopped authorizing tax breaks for developers and cheating our schools of $250 million each year. “

CTU also noted that money could be saved if there were a moratorium on charter school expansion.  These privately-controlled, unaccountable institutions are currently funded with public dollars that could go to funding a better school day in neighborhood schools.

Lewis said “Chicago’s schoolchildren have already lost 1,000 teachers this year and with its FY2012 budget CPS proposes eliminating anywhere between 400 to 500 more teaching positions.  A school system depleted of experienced professionals cannot provide the 21st century high-quality education our children deserve no matter how long the school day.  That’s why we urge CPS to sit down with us to discuss how to fund a better school day.”

CPS should stop authorizing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, which siphon property tax dollars away from schools and give them to politically-connected developers.  That money could allow for the hiring of 2,000 teachers, provide air conditioning for over half of all elementary and high schools and offer full-day kindergarten for thousands of students.  Those TIF dollars could fund the entire budget of the Office of Early Childhood Education.  Early childhood learning supports are crucial for beginning the process of skill-building among children as well as mitigating inequalities.

CTU points out that the greatest erosion to quality instructional time in Chicago schools has been due to the enormous amount of standardized testing that students are prepped for.  Educators have continuously stressed that prior to expanding school time districts should focus on ensuring that the current time on tasks involves meaningful instruction.

“This is about quality, not quantity,” Lewis said.

Chicago Teachers Union