CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Public School teachers were speaking out for the first time on Tuesday about the difficult decision to vote for a longer school day. So far, teachers at 12 public schools have agreed to extend the school day by 90 minutes.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that teachers at William H. Brown Elementary on the West Side voted in favor of a longer school day last week and shared their struggle with CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard on Tuesday.
As those teachers met with Brizard, reporters were invited to listen, but not ask questions.
Teacher Kathleen Boyle said, “This is not about what’s easy for us, it’s about what’s best for the kids. And we all made that decision collectively and it wasn’t a difficult decision.
Fellow teacher Stacy Boyd said, “If you think about the union and this and that, yeah it’s hard. But when you think about the kids and where they are and where they need to be and compete, like she said, it was kind of a no-brainer.”
Principal Kenya Sadler said “While we may not have agreed to, you know, all agree on whether to extend the day or not, we all believe that, you know, our kids need more.”
Brizard – seeking advice from those teachers – asked how their split vote of 14-6 avoided splitting the faculty.
“You don’t know who voted yes or who voted no, right? So how do you make sure you’re healing?” Brizard asked.
Teacher Betty Boyd said, “We’re going to start the healing process. We don’t want anybody to be left out and Nobody is to be penalized for the decision we made.”
Sadler added, “We sink or swim together,” prompting Betty Boyd to say “We all plan to swim.”
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, echoing a theme she has voiced throughout the debate over a longer school day, emphasized that the union favors a longer school day, but doesn’t want to rush into it without a detailed plan of how to spend the extra time with students.
“What is the rush? Why can’t we plan for a better school day? We know it’s coming. The mayor has made clear that’s what he wants,” Lewis said. “It will be here next year in the next contract. So what is the rush? Why can’t we sit down and plan for a longer school day so that it’s a better school day?”
Brizard said, “hopefully they might change their mind for January, but if they don’t that’s okay too. The idea is, one, to have a structure that makes sense for our city; but to have some pioneers who show us the kinks that we have to work out.”
“The good new is we’re no longer discussing whether we’re going to have a longer school day and a longer school year. We’re now discussing how to do it,” Emanuel said Tuesday.
Teachers at Brown decided how to use the extra ninety minutes at their school: focusing on reading, math and new arts programs.
The $150,000 bonus the school received for agreeing to a longer school day this year will go to hire more staff and buy new textbooks.
CPS officials said they believe as many as 40 other schools might soon join the 12 schools that have already approved a longer school day. The union, on the other hand, claimed that hundreds more have informally voted no.