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Teachers Union: ‘No Thanks’ To Offer Of Raises For Longer School Day

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A classroom in the Chicago Public Schools. (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 08/25/11 – 4:36 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – The Chicago Teachers Union has rejected an offer of 2 percent raises for elementary school teachers for beginning a longer school day beginning in January.

“Yes, we fully support a better, smarter school day for our children but teachers are now being asked to work 29 percent longer for only a 2 percent pay increase,” CTU President Karen Lewis said in a statement Thursday afternoon. “To that we say thanks, but no thanks. … Teachers on average already work 21 hours more than they are paid for; we grade papers, create lesson plans, confer with parents and counsel our students. There will be little time for us to do any of that.”

Lewis had earlier blasted Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard for first presenting the offer of a pay raise for a longer school day on TV, rather than bringing it to CTU first.

Brizard first pitched the proposal on WTTW-TV’s “Chicago Tonight” program on Tuesday evening. He was offering to provide 2% pay raises to elementary school teachers in order to implement an additional 90 minutes of class time for kindergarten through 8th grade students starting in January.

On Wednesday, Lewis said that the union would consider Brizard’s offer, but said they weren’t happy with the proposal or how it was presented. On Thursday, they officially rejected the offer.

“Rather than negotiating through the press and setting up political committees, CPS needs to sit down with teachers and paraprofessionals who are in our schools every day and come up with a better plan,” Lewis said Thursday. “Other school districts have found ways to lengthen the school days by good planning, and we welcome doing that as an interim step while we negotiate.”

The union said they were not told how the additional time would be spent, or how programs on its priority lists – such as civics, world languages, art, music, physical education and recess – would be funded.

“I’m disappointed,” Brizard said Thursday. “Honestly, I thought it was a great compromise.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports

Brizard said he has found that most unions have a difficult time agreeing to separate elementary school teacher pay from high school teacher pay.

He hopes the CTU now returns with a counter offer.

“My hope is she (Lewis) counters and isnt just turning this down,” he said.

As CBS 2′s Dana Kozlov reports, rejection or not, don’t expect Mayor Rahm Emanuel to let this topic go.

“The fundamental to security is not just more police – which we’re doing – the fundamental to security and learning is the additional hour-and-a-half in the classroom with an adult who’s excited about being there,” Emanuel said Thursday morning about his goal of a longer school day.

Longer school days were almost all he talked about at a breakfast at U.S. Cellular Field Thursday morning.

Some schools – like Coonley Elementary on the North Side – have already, independently adopted a longer school day, adding almost two hours of instruction per week.

“They could be learning English, history, the arts,” Emanuel said of the additional instruction time students would get with a longer school day.

But learning might not be the only benefit.

“If everybody thinks having high school kids out at 2:15 — when 75% of juvenile crime occurs between the hours of 3 and 6 — is not only good educational, but good public policy, I say it is wrong for the city, it’s wrong for our children and we can do better.”

Loyola University criminal justice professor Arthur Lurigio says that’s true, but a longer day won’t necessarily reduce juvenile crime.

“If the time after school will be spent teaching kids skills that will help them stay out of trouble, then it might have longer-term benefits,” Lurigio said.

Emanuel made it clear on Thursday he won’t back down from his push for a longer school day for Chicago Public Schools.

“Either we put the kids front-and-center in the educational system, or shame on all of us,” Emanuel said.

But, when asked in a phone interview Thursday afternoon whether a longer school day would happen this year, Lewis said, “absolutely not.”

Lewis said she hasn’t heard back from Brizard’s office yet, so it’s unclear when or if both sides will get back to the bargaining table to discuss a longer school day.

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