City Council, Education Secretary Pile on CTU Over Longer School Day

By Chuck Sudo in News on Sep 9, 2011 1:30PM

2010_12_17_city_council.png
City Council (via City of Chicago Website)

The drumming for a longer school day in Chicago Public Schools grew in volume yesterday with City Council joining Mayor Emanuel and CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard in calling for extending the length of classroom time. With many of the aldermen in the Council backed by organized labor, the stand against the Chicago Teachers Union on the subject of a longer school day is seen by some as more than a token gesture intended to curry favor with the mayor.

14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke, one of organized labor's staunchest allies, said he's finding it harder to back CTU and their opposition to a longer school day.

"I’m starting to get embarrassed at the attitude of some leaders of organized labor,” Burke said.

“... The union is not trying to figure out a way to get this accomplished. They seem to be obstructing the end goal that so many people agree needs to happen.”

Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) said extending the school day by 90 minutes isn't enough and called for an even longer day to allow working parents to pick up their children without having to leave their jobs early.

The teachers union responded to City Council's move by formally filing a complaint with the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board, charging the four schools who waived their CPS contracts in exchange for a 2 percent pay raise and 90 more minutes of classroom time amounts to tampering. CTU President Karen Lewis said Emanuel's actions were a "declaration of war."

"This is an attempt to take down and make irrelevant the Chicago Teachers Union because if the CTU goes, they can roll over every union in the city.’’

The complaint calls for canceling the waivers of the contracts at STEM Magnet and Skinner North (Burke has four grandchildren attending Skinner) on the grounds non-CTU members were allowed to vote in "sham elections." A press release from the union sent out after City Council's statements repeated CTU's position they're in favor of a longer school day, but not solely for the sake of having one.

“The Chicago Teachers Union supports a longer school day if it’s also a better school day. Our concern is about quality not quantity. We do not want our teachers and paraprofessionals coerced and bullied into signing away their contractual rights in order to get the resources they sorely need,” the statement continued.

“The longer school day campaign is nothing more than a political gimmick based on lies, misinformation and half-truths,” the statement said.

The piling on CTU didn't stop with City Council. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a former CPS CEO, said the school system deserves a "badge of shame" for having such a short school day and expressed his wishes for extending it when he was in charge. Duncan said he couldn't because the system "couldn't afford it" during his time as CEO.

CTU has been asking all along how CPS can move to extend the school day and give the teachers who break the contract with the school system raises if they can't afford their negotiated pay raises.