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UPDATED: State Senate Passes Education Reform Bill

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Illinois State Senate

Illinois State Senate chambers (CBS File Photo)

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CHICAGO (WBBM/CBS) – The Illinois State Senate has unanimously approved an education reform bill that would lengthen the school day and make changes to how teachers are rewarded or disciplined.

As WBBM Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, Mayor Richard M. Daley is applauding the legislation in Springfield, and has championed many of its reforms. Daley says the deal be a major step in the right direction.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780 Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports

He congratulates Illinois State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood) for leading the months-long effort to craft the legislation.

“This bill will allow the Board of Education to decide unilaterally the length of the school day and the length of the school year,” Daley said. “The bill also allows for teacher performance to be a consideration to determine wages. There are significant changes that will benefit children.”

The measure also would make teachers’ strikes more difficult, though not impossible. And tenure, or lifetime job security, would be tougher to get.

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel, who takes office in one month, is also lauding the efforts – particularly those to establish a longer school day.

“The board will establish the time, they’ll analyze whether it’s an hour, an hour-and-a-half or two (hours), whether it’s a week, two weeks or three weeks,” Emanuel said. “We will establish it. It is essential. I will not allow the kids of Chicago to be academically cheated as they have for the last 30 years.”

While CPS has estimated that an extra hour in the classroom would cost $300 million a year, Emanuel was adamant that there will be a longer school day and under his watch and it won’t cost taxpayers anything close to that amount.

But the Chicago Teachers Union is raising questions. The union says Chicago Public Schools officials must negotiate some form of compensation for longer school days, which is a key provision of the School Reform Bill.

Emanuel could not say the money is there. He says only that there may be other ways to compensate teachers besides money. He says he wants the teachers at the table discussing the issue.

Daley hopes the Teachers Union will show flexibility, and make some sacrifices to help put some of the plans into effect.

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