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CHICAGO (CBS) – It might feel like a hundred degrees out there but it’s nearly fall for students at Chicago Public Schools. The new school year is just a week away for many of them and a month away for the rest.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that school officials are working feverishly to balance the budget for the upcoming school year, but just starting talks with teachers over those pay raises they can’t afford.
There’s one more critical issue they haven’t even touched for the upcoming school year: Emanuel’s campaign pledge to push for a longer school day.
But right now, it seems they’ve got all they can do just to get the word out about the start of the school year, balance the budget, and reach agreement with the teachers on pay raises.
Thats why the CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean Claude Brizard and a few of his powerful friends – including Mayor Rahm Emanuel – went door-to-door in the Auburn-Gresham community Tuesday morning, handing out flyers reminding parents about the upcoming school year.
“I can tell you of the critical importance of kids coming to school day one,” Brizard said.
But hanging over their efforts to get the word out were the negotiations with teachers over their cancelled 4% raises and other efforts to balance the budget, which in June, showed a $712 million deficit.
That shortfall was whittled down to $600 million in July, and now, CBS 2 has learned, it stands at around $300 million after unspecified cuts.
A balanced budget is due by Friday, but CPS officials have yet to achieve Emanuel’s top priority of a longer school day.
“You cannot get to where we need to be on education if it’s the shortest school day and school year in the country, which is why all of us are pushing for that type of reform to take hold this year,” Emanuel said.
A longer school day is something most parents support.
“I used to go to school in Texas, so I used to be 9 to 4. So, longer school days is better for them,” Auburn-Gresham resident Kamarria Lumpkin said.
Carlos Nelson said, “Most of their daytime hours are spent on the streets as opposed to being in school.”
However, despite a new state law allowing a longer school day, the teachers say the subject has not yet been discussed in talks with CPS.
“I won’t negotiate in the press, but they are talking about everything possible. Everything that they are pushing, we are reacting to and vice versa,” Brizard said.
But so far, CBS 2 has learned, that hasn’t included the longer school day.
It’s like the 800 pound gorilla in the room that no one wants to talk about. But they better start talking soon or the mayor’s dream of a longer school day this year will remain just that, a dream.