The Chicago Teachers Union inked a deal with Chicago Public Schools Wednesday night that will temporarily stay the battle over extending the school day.
The move to lengthen the school day in Chicago Public Schools, championed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS Chief Jean-Claude Brizard, has met a contentious response from teachers and parents, who worry the new schedule will overextend students and staff, and teachers won't be properly compensated for the additional time.
The teachers union (CTU) issued a press release late Wednesday announcing that in addition to theCPS agreement to stall expanding the longer school day beyond the 51 pilot schools this year, the district will prorate the pay of teachers at the those schools to compensate for a year of longer hours without pay adjustments.
"Today's settlement is a great victory for collective bargaining in Chicago, and a step forward for the Chicago Public Schools," says CTU President Karen Lewis in the union's statement. "The longer school day will give CPS students the schools they deserve only if sufficient resources are devoted to making it work, including fair compensation for teachers."
CPS painted the agreement in a different way in their announcement, citing litigation threatened by the union as their main motivation for stalling the expansion and agreeing to wage adjustments.
"We choose to focus on the classroom, not the courtroom and this settlement is an attempt to avoid the courtroom," Becky Carroll, Chief Communications Officer for CPS, said in a statement, later defending the longer school day as advantageous for students.
CTU filed charges with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board after CPS negotiated schedule changes with individual schools in September and October, offering stipends for teachers and financial incentives for schools that jumped on board early.
Based on Wednesday's settlement, teachers at the 51 schools with longer class time will receive prorated payments of up to $1,500, and will be guaranteed the same salary for this school year that will be offered to teachers working longer days as the program expands in coming years, according to the CTU.
The agreement frees up the union to renegotiate teacher salaries before the next school year, with respect to the schedule adjustments.
Whether the program will be expanded is another matter. Parents have expressed concerns recently that the lengthened school day could be harmful to students, particularly young children, subjected to longer and more rigorous class time.
A survey of parents at Skinner North Elementary on Chicago's Near North Side found that 53 percent prefer a shorter day, and have found the 7.5 hour school day problematic, according to the Chicago Tribune. Surveys of Skinner parents earlier this year showed significantly greater support for the schedule change.
CPS plans to implement the longer school day across the district for the 2012-2013 school year.