If there’s a teacher’s strike in Chicago this fall, it will be the result of Rahm Emanuel’s approach to implementing the longer school day.
And the simplest – and perhaps only – way to avert a strike will require Emanuel to take another look at the plan.
That’s the clear implication of the fact-finder’s report issued last week by mediator Edwin Benn (and rejected by CPS and the CTU).
Emanuel isn’t mentioned by name in Benn’s report, but since he controls the school board, every option Benn outlines for the board is one that will ultimately be decided by Emanuel.
In comments on the report, the mayor did not seem inclined to consider its suggestions for settling the dispute.
According to Benn, the board “has a very straightforward option” to reduce the monetary impact of recommendations to pay teachers for the longer day and year, which he calls “the major flashpoint” of the dispute: it “can simply reduce the length of the school day and/or the school year from its stated expansion.”
Although the media has downplayed this dynamic – and the Chicago Tribune has editorialized against compromising on the longer day (or on charter expansion) — parent groups involved in the issue are picking up on it.
Can we afford it?
In an analysis of the fact-finding report, Raise Your Hand points to the longstanding failure to address school funding issues and says, “RYH does not believe we can afford a seven-hour day that comes with a 14.5 percent raise at this time.
“A 6.5-hour day that works by moving the teacher lunch [break] to the middle of the day would be affordable,” RYH argues. “If you can’t afford something, don’t do it.”
A 6.5-hour day “is a ‘full day’” and is in fact the national average, RYH adds. And “longer or shorter, CPS has still not sufficiently addressed the issues of quality in the school day – class size, fine and performing arts, violence prevention, foreign language, physical education, etc.”
Finally, “until we get real about the state of education funding and do something to change it, we won’t make real improvements in the school day.”
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