Emanuel takes push for longer day to charter schools
CHICAGO – Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday he's taking his offer of cash in exchange for a lengthier school day to Chicago's 108 charter schools, one week after a state labor board sought to block his longer-day campaign in district-run schools.
Emanuel is offering $75,000 in grant funding to schools and $800 to teachers who agree to lengthen their school day starting in January. He estimates the grants will cost Chicago Public Schools $5 million if all charter schools agree.
So far, he said 32 of 42 elementary charter schools have expressed interest in applying for the grants. Many charter schools already have a longer day than traditional schools, and only schools that don't already have that will be eligible for the grants.
Chicago's public schools have the shortest school day and one of the shortest school years among the nation's 50 largest districts, according to a 2007 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. But the Chicago Teachers Union insists the city's hours of actual instruction are on par with other cities'.
Recently passed education reform legislation allows for Chicago schools to lengthen the school day next year, but Emanuel did not want to wait. He wants all city schools to have 450-minute days with 390 minutes of instructional time starting this year.
"We've been cheating our children of their future, year in and year out, and that's coming to an end in the city of Chicago," Emanuel said at CICS Washington Park School on the city's South Side. "And next year, we're going to have a new beginning."
The mayor campaigned on keeping Chicago's students in class longer, and he's made an aggressive push to make good on that promise.
Before the school year began, he asked the Chicago Teachers Union to re-open its current contract and accept 2 percent raises in exchange for lengthening the day at district-run schools by 90 minutes. When the union turned down the offer, noting that he rescinded 4 percent raises for teachers over the summer, he went directly to the schools themselves. He persuaded 13 elementary schools out of more than 450 to waive the union contract and add the extra time in exchange for a similar offer being made to charter schools.
The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board has voted to block Emanuel's administration from negotiating with more schools in the future. The board's request now goes to the Illinois attorney general's office, which will decide whether to petition a Cook County judge to grant the relief.
Charter schools are privately owned, and their teachers aren't unionized. In order to offer cash in exchange for more time at charter schools, Emanuel had to get approval from the Chicago Board of Education, which voted yes on the matter Wednesday.
The teachers union said Thursday that teachers and principals shouldn't be "bribed" in order to get the resources they need.
"The Chicago Teachers Union also believes people who are asked to work more hours should be compensated – not given one-time stipends rather than earned wages," the union said in a statement. "Unlike CTU members, employees at most privately held charter schools are at-will employees who are not protected by collective bargaining agreements."