Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis made it clear this week that longer schools days and school years will not solve the real issues Chicago students face in the public school system.
And on Thursday, the same day Mayor Rahm Emanuel was touting the changes, Lewis declined to be part of it on the currently offered terms.
Chicago Public Schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard said in a statement he was "disappointed" the union declined an offer to give elementary school teachers a two percent raise in exchange for a 90-minute longer school day.
"We presented the union with an honest compromise that will provide hundreds of thousands of Chicago’s children with more time in the classroom," Brizard said.
But Lewis said the compromise isn't fair to instructors.
"Teachers are now being asked to work 29 percent longer for only a two percent pay increase," said Lewis. "To that we say thanks, but no thanks."
In June the board unanimously voted to rescind a contractually-obligated four percent annual pay raise for teachers, pointing to a $712 million deficit plaguing the system.
But Brizard on Wednesday said he'd be willing to "trade off" on raises for this school year in exchange for the longer day. The two percent raises would cost about $30 million, he said.
Lewis said a teacher making $57,000 a year would only make $3.41 an hour more for the extra work, saying teachers already work many extra hours without pay. She also criticized CPS for negotiating "through the press" instead of sitting down with teachers.
"Other school districts have found ways to lengthen the school days by good planning, and we welcome doing that as an interim step while we negotiate,” she said.
Brizard said he also hopes to continue negotiations.
"Today we joined nearly 200 faith-based leaders at an event to announce they have 400 petitions in favor the longer school day for kids in their communities," he said. "We hope that the union will reconsider on behalf of the children of Chicago."
Lewis said the amount of disrespect teachers feel from the local government has been "racheted up" since Emanuel took office, but noted that what's happening in Chicago isn't isolated.
"This is a nationwide attack. This is not new to Chicago. This is going on everywhere, and no matter where you go, you're going to find this. This is a very well-orchestrated attack on teachers and their unions," she said.
Going forward, Lewis said she hopes the negotiations will be taken out of the public arena and without political agendas.