Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Jean-Claude Brizard received an early Labor Day present when teachers at three small CPS schools voted Friday to add 90 minutes to their day during the upcoming academic year.
Two of the schools -- a University Village-located new school STEM Magnet Academy and Skinner North Classical School on the Near North Side -- are instituting the change immediately, as students returning to school next week will experience the new, longer day. A third school, Genevieve Melody Elementary School in West Garfield Park, will extend its school day by 90 minutes beginning in January, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
In a statement released Friday, Emanuel and Brizard described the schools' vote as "a historic step forward in bringing the kind of change we need in the classroom to help our children get the world class education they deserve."
(Scroll down to watch Brizard and others comment on the three schools OKing a longer school day.)
"We thank the courageous teachers and principals today for their dedication to investing in our children’s future by supporting a longer school day," Emanuel and Brizard continued. "We support them and commend them for the message they are sending to our city that our children must come first. We hope more principals, teachers and parents will come together to put our children first."
In exchange for agreeing to the longer school day, the two schools making the change immediately will receive up to $150,000 in discretionary funds, while Melody will receive $75,000, the Chicago Tribune reports. The funds are intended to be used to improve classroom instruction. Their teachers will receive a one-time lump sum bonus roughly equal to 2 percent of their district's average salary.
The Chicago Teachers Union, which has opposed Emanuel and Brizard's push for a longer school day in the face of the ongoing debate over teacher salaries, reacted angrily to the news. The union's vice present Jesse Sharkey told NBC Chicago the move represented "political school reform at its worst" and accused CPS of "bribing and cajoling" the schools's teachers to agree to the longer day by promising them rewards like iPads.
The union has filed a grievance claiming CPS violated their collective bargaining agreement with the union and may have also violated fair labor practices.
"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," Sharkey told NBC Chicago.
But CPS denied that any of the schools agreeing to the longer day were coerced or bribed into doing so.
“Several schools indicated to us over the last several weeks that there is a strong appetite to move toward a longer day because ... they don’t feel they have enough time in the classroom with students and they don’t have enough time for planning and collaboration," CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll told Fox Chicago.
The principal at Skinner North, Ethan Netterstrom, also denied the CTU's claim that his school's teachers were promised iPads in exchange for their vote, Fox Chicago notes.
View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.