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Time for a ‘high-class debate’?

Mayor Emanuel may now regret ever proposing a longer day as a silver bullet for Chicago schools. The issue’s gotten away from him, and he’s scurrying to catch up.

On Tuesday Emanuel was forced to make two concessions: a small one, reducing his proposed seven-and-a-half-hour day by thirty minutes, and a large one, opening the door to discussions of what that day will actually look like.

Last August, Emanuel said, “I cannot wait for a high-class debate and discussion about, ‘Is it more math? Is it more history?'”

But on Tuesday he said, “I would hope now that we’d stop debating about the time and start having a real discussion” about “how do you use” that time.

Chicago Parents for Quality Education, including parent and community groups who’ve been pressing for “a real discussion,” will be at the mayor’s office Friday, April 13 at 4 p.m. to present him with a petition calling for a richer curriculum, better social supports, early education, smaller class sizes, facilities upgrades, and a reduction of test prep and over-testing.

Emanuel “brought this on himself, and he’s painted himself into a corner,” said Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education. “He’s trying to capture the high ground, and now he has to put his money where his mouth is.”

“He thought any kind of longer day would be better and parents don’t care what happens during the school day,” said Wendy Katten of the Raise Your Hand Coalition. “But parents do care.”

School planning impasse

She said schools have been meeting to plan for next year’s extended day, but CPS has repeatedly missed its own deadlines for providing them with budgets. Schools “were told to make wish lists, but nobody is being told what can be funded,” she said. “Everybody’s confused and frustrated.”

A quality day will require lots of new teachers for a district that has laid off thousands in recent years. Most elementary schools now have one half-time position for either art or music; parents expect a longer school day to offer both art and music, on a more than token basis. Most Chicago schools now give kids gym one day a week, despite a state mandate that requires daily physical education.

Many schools don’t even have the staff to monitor recess, Katten said. “If schools can’t get all their positions filled, how are they going to make a seven-hour day work?”

A white paper from CPQE highlights statements from CPS administrators on the need for additional class time to prepare students for new common core standardized tests. That would be a way to extend the day on the cheap. But it’s not what parents want.

Even cheaper would be computer-assisted test prep, which some parents fear is on the horizon. (In 2010 CPS piloted a longer-day program in 15 schools using online learning and non-certified teachers.) “That way you can put 60 kids in a classroom,” Woestehoff points out.

No answers

Emanuel “refused to say how he plans to pay for the longer day,” the Sun-Times reported.

“We haven’t gotten any answers [on funding] from the district,” said Katten. “They don’t want to reform TIF. There’s no new revenue. They’re claiming a huge deficit. It’s kind of absurd.”

“It’s their job to figure it out – and it’s not their job to tell parents what their children aren’t going to get,” said Woestehoff. “And if it takes going to all the wealthy businesses and saying you need to pay your fair share, they need to be leading the charge on that.”

Emanuel seems to have thought the longer day was a winning slogan and a nifty way of squeezing the teachers union. New legislation allows CPS to unilaterally set the length of the school day, and how it would be done was clearly given little or no thought.

CPQE’s report exposed the “misinformation” in Emanuel’s rhetoric and cited studies that show that longer days improve learning only when educational quality is improved. It looked at the experience of Houston, often cited by the mayor.

There an extended day piloted in 20 schools involved hiring 250 full-time math tutors. When the program was expanded to more schools last year, Houston kept the tutors but dropped the extra minutes.

What happens in the classroom – and how it’s paid for – it’s time to talk about it.

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Category: CPS

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8 Responses

  1. Kati Gilson says:

    Thank you parents! You can do what teachers can’t! I thank you as both a parent and a teacher!

  2. That line about Houston is a lie, just for the record. Jonah Edelman of the Astroturf anti-public-education organization Stand for Children boasts about making it up.

    In the notorious videotaped presentation by Edelman about how his organization bought off Illinois politicians and snookered teachers’ unions into massive concessions, Edelman refers to:

    “…the talking point that we [apparently Stand for Children] made up and he [Emanuel] repeated about a thousand times, probably, on the campaign trail about the Houston kids going to school four years more than the Chicago kids.”

  3. James Paris says:

    So much for a “high class” debate.

    First debates are an actual discussion for the purpose of elucidating truth. I’m sorry Rahm is so used to using smoke and mirrors to hide the truth that it has become habit. This ill conceived plan has nothing to do with educating OUR children, quite the opposite. In fact, I’m positive that if he were to tell the truth about this scheme, the demand for tar and feathers would out pace that of food and oil.

    Secondly, in reference to the “high class” portion. His reference to the 19th Ward as “Ghetto Irish”, I think, shows the mayor indeed has no class. He may be “high”, but his reputation as a political bully proceeds him.

    Finally, Rahm, I request you quit referring to the students affected as “Our children”. If you do want to use that slogan, enroll your kids in a CPS school. Until then, they are not public policy, to be played as pawns in your educational reform game, which as a goal, is to get your shyster banker friends snouts into the trough of public education funds. They are OUR children, and we decide what is best for them.

  4. Joy Gatji says:

    Kudos, James Paris! Eloquently & truthfully said.

    Rahm’s efforts to weaken the Teachers Union & “saving CPS money” by closing another 100 schools at the end of this school year, only to open them up as charter schools are clear examples of his lack of inexperience with education & lack of respect towards the profession. Experienced teachers will lose their jobs only to face having to work for a charter school as a non-union member, and take a base salary. I wouldn’t be surprised if he announces this during Teacher Appreciation Week.

    At his press conference @ Curie H.S., he brought with him a former IB (inter-baccalaureate) student & told “middle class” not to move out of the city yet, as he will offer a “world class” education to their children. He just announced that he is closing about 14 IB coordinators! They let go of all the people at CPS in the Early Childhood Dept. & renamed the department. They’re hiring new staff – at base salary. Another money-saving move. So sad.

    …and why is it 4 top-ranking positions – all appointed by Rahm Emanuel are leaving?

    In the meantime, his own children are given the world class education he is touting. How about showcasing your own children’s school as the model for CPS?

  5. […] He stonewalled parents who wanted details.  “I cannot wait for a high-class debate,” he said, when people asked what the longer day would consist of and how it would be paid for.  Those are things that parents care about – and they’re not things they’re likely to trust CPS to take care of — and Emanuel misjudged that entirely.  Parents are left with many unanswered questions and growing frustration.  (More here.) […]

  6. […] on CPS to negotiate over class size and other issues, and Chicago Parents for Quality Education petitioned Mayor Emanuel to address issues like a fuller curriculum and more social supports in planning the longer school […]

  7. […] Take the longer school day.  Emanuel’s rush for immediate implementation – and an entirely unnecessary adversarial, “win-lose” approach, using the issue (unsuccessfully) as a weapon against the teachers’ union – led to a chaotic, alienating rollout. […]

  8. […] Take the longer school day.  Emanuel’s rush for immediate implementation – and an entirely unnecessary adversarial, “win-lose” approach, using the issue (unsuccessfully) as a weapon against the teachers’ union – led to a chaotic, alienating rollout. […]

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