The Chicago City Council overwhelmingly approved a resolution today in support of a longer school day for public school children -- the same day a fourth school in the city voted to add 90 minutes to its day.
“With this resolution the city of Chicago speaks with one voice as it relates to the length of day,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who has been pushing to extend class days. “The resolution is only the beginning of what I’m going to ask of you. I won’t back down.”
Emanuel and schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard are offering incentives to all schools that decide to lengthen their school day this year. Schools making the change now get $150,000 and teachers a bonus of $1,250. Schools changing in January would receive $75,000 and teachers $800.
Four schools have taken the offer, the most recent on Benjamin E. Mays Elementary Academy in Englewood this morning.
While the majority of alderman stood to speak in support of the resolution, there was some opposition to how Emanuel has gone about implementing it.
Ald. Nicholas Sposato, 36th, said the mayor should not “pick schools off one at a time.”
“I 100 percent support a longer school day. I don’t support the idea of ramming it down people’s throats,” Sposato said after the vote. “I don’t want to see us go from six hours today to 7 ½ tomorrow. Teachers need to prepare for this.”
Ald. Edward Burke, 14th, said the Chicago Teachers Union -- which has criticized the incentives as bullying -- seems to be “obstructing the end goal.”
“The leaders of the unions ought to board this train because it’s about to leave the station,” Burke said.
The resolution, introduced by Ald. Latasha Thomas, 17th, the chair of the Education Committee, expresses the desire that the school day “be increased as soon as possible.” The nonbinding resolution, which was passed on a voice vote, will be forwarded to the school board.
The teachers union accused the council of giving in "to the pressure of a well-orchestrated propaganda campaign that has no scientific evidence to show that this will do anything to improve the quality of education in our neighborhood schools. It is shameful that not one politician stood up for our students and teachers who deserve better. A longer school day is inevitable but how will it be funded and how will it be planned?
“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."
To add more time to the school day, a majority of teachers at the school need to approve the change in schedule.
At Mays, 838 W. Marquette Road, Principal Patricia McCann-Nicholes said 18 of her 22 teachers voted yes for a longer day.
She said she was inspired by the three schools that first took the vote Friday, mulled over the idea over the long weekend and then presented it to her teachers on Tuesday. Most of her teachers — 75 percent of whom are tenured — are already working at the school till 5 p.m. with extracurricular programming run by Children Home and Aid.
“So the idea wasn’t a big leap for us,” she said. “For a long time now, many of us have felt we’re not giving children enough time to do our very best to present a quality curriculum. There’s not enough time in the day to get it done.”
The school’s 310 students do well on standardized tests, scoring 78 percent on composite scores on forthe to Illinois Standards Achievement Test last spring. Of the four who voted against the longer day, two teachers had younger children and the other two lived far from the school and were concerned about the distance and getting home later, McCann-Nicholes said.