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Three Chicago Public Schools Agree to Longer Days

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Sept. 2, 2011: This Labor Day weekend is no holiday for the Chicago Teachers Union. Two schools are breaking from the existing contract, agreeing to a longer day beginning next week. A third school will join them in January.

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel is getting his wish -- partially -- regarding longer school days for Chicago Public Schools, and how it happened has some in the Chicago Teachers Union crying foul.

Two CPS schools, Genevieve Melody Elementary School and Skinner North Classical School, next week will add 90 minutes to their day. A third, STEM Magnet Academy, will extend its day by 90 minutes beginning in January.

Teachers at Melody and Skinner will be given a pay hike, a "lump sum of two percent equal to the average teacher's salary," explained CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. That amounts to $1,275, she said.

Additionally, the two schools will be given $150,000 each to cover the costs of programming, activities and the hiring of additional teaches or aids.

When STEM Magnet Academy extends its day in the new year, it will receive $75,000. Teachers there will receive lump sum payouts of $800.

Though small, the move appears to show some dissension among the ranks of the teachers union. Combined, Melody and Skinner have about 30 union members.

Union leadership has filed a grievance over the action, with CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey calling the maneuver "political school reform at its worst."

"We'd wish that the Board of Education would stop trying to handle important discussions that need to happen with the teachers in the city like a political football and with press releases," he said.

Sharkey called it "a system of bribing and cajoling" that the teachers who signed waivers, agreeing to extend the school days, reportedly received rewards such as iPads.

"We're talking about a system that has 30,000 people in it. The Chicago Teachers Union has, literally, inside the staff and inside the members out in the schools, hundreds and thousands and millions of hours of expertise in these issues, and it's insulting that important instructional questions about how school can be better is being handled this way," he added.

In a letter written by CPS attorneys, CTU President Karen Lewis said the agreement is a "violation of the Board-Union Agreement that involves a workplace solution."

Earlier this week, CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said negotiations with the CTU were ongoing (VIDEO). He said he'd hoped to find 30 schools that would agree to extend their school days this year, but said he didn't want to "impose" any widespread changes.

"I want to work with my teachers to actually make this happen. Teachers have said to me they want this," he said Tuesday.

Emanuel has made longer school days one of his signatures issues. He'd helped push through the Illinois General Assembly a bill earlier this year allowing the change, but it can't be implemented for the 2011-2012 school year without union consent.

CPS and the Emanuel Administration had offered elementary school teachers a two percent pay increase, but the union rejected it. They're steamed about the four-percent, across-the-board pay raises that were cancelled in June.

The school board says the system is about $712 million in the hole.

UPDATE: Principal Proud to Embrace Longer School Days

Note: This post was originally published on Sept. 2, 2011.

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