After being accused of refusing to work with Chicago parents, Mayor Rahm Emanuel backed down on his longer school day proposal Tuesday.
Emanuel announced that when Chicago Public Schools adopt a longer school day in the fall, elementary schools will go from 5 3/4 hours to a solid 7 hours. High schools will keep the originally planned 7 1/2 hour day, but will be released 75 minutes early once a week.
“The changes to the full day reflect hours spent listening to parents and taking action based on their input and demonstrate our willingness to work as true partners with parents to make decisions that will boost student achievement across the district,” CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said in a statement.
The announcement comes after 16 parent groups from across the city teamed up to demand a meeting with Emanuel, and questioned the data that CPS was touting about their longer school day plan.
"It's about time the mayor listened to parents about the length of the school day," Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said in a statement. "Now give our students the neighborhood schools, resources and support they deserve. Teachers have said this from the beginning: This is about quality not quantity."
Despite the change, Emanuel maintains that a longer school day is essential.
“Knowledge is the key to the future in today’s world – you earn what you learn. By having the shortest school day and shortest school year of any major city, we shortchanged Chicago’s children,” Emanuel said in a statement. “By adopting a longer day and a longer year, we are working to shape the future of our children for the better and give them an education that matches up with their potential.”
Wendy Katten, director of Raise Your Hand, told the Chicago Tribune that the parent groups opposed to Emanuel's plan were concerned about how the city would pay for more valuable class time when CPS is reportedly $700 million in debt. Phillip Jackson, executive director of Black Star Project, agreed.
"Simply going to a longer school day without going to a higher-quality school day is not going to get the job done," he told the paper.