While former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has thrown some veiled criticism at successor Rahm Emanuel in the past, the man who led the city for 22 years is coming down hard on the new mayor's longer school day initiative.
"At first I thought [a longer school day] was [the answer], but I don’t think so," former Mayor Daley said in an interview Monday night on ABC Chicago. "To me, to take a fourth-grader or a sixth-grader or a high school student, and say you’re going to stay more than six hours — we need quality instructions."
Expanding time spent in the classroom has been one of Emanuel's major initiatives since taking office nearly a year ago, along with hacking away at the city's budget.
While Emanuel's bold moves during his first days in office may have appeared to distance the new mayor from his predecessor, Richard M. Daley biographer and HuffPost Chicago blogger Keith Koeneman pointed out last fall that it may actually further align the two Chicago leaders:
Rahm Emanuel appeared to have boldly started a new era for the city, but he actually was following outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley's political playbook from 1989. In 1989, Daley had to deal respectfully with the powerful legacy of a mayoral predecessor, namely Harold Washington, while also establishing himself as a forward-looking problem solver...In 2011, the talented Emanuel faces the same type of governing challenge that Daley had dealt with in 1989. He needs to publicly respect his predecessor's legacy -- which for Daley was two decades of leadership and stability for Chicago -- while simultaneously demonstrating that a new era of city government would begin under his mayoral leadership.
Daley is far from Emanuel's only critic on the school day changes. The current mayor has been embroiled for months in a battle with the Chicago Teachers Union over the need for more classroom time and funding logistics.
Parent groups have also vocalized concerns, from worrying the school day will be too long for their students to demanding more involvement in the decision-making process.
"Simply going to a longer school day without going to a higher-quality school day is not going to get the job done," Phillip Jackson, executive director of Black Star Project, told the Chicago Tribune earlier this year. "And we feel like you must have parental and community involvement in major decisions about the children in public schools, and we have not seen that."
Despite the longer school day criticism, Daley told the station he does believe Emanuel is doing "a good job" as mayor, and added that he hasn't been closely following city politics since leaving office.