By Derrick Blakley

CHICAGO (CBS) – School was in session Monday -– for aldermen.

The Chicago Teachers Union was busy trying to convince City Council members that it is not trying to obstruct plans for a longer school day.

It was clearly an effort at damage control, CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports. The teachers union worries that Mayor Emanuel has effectively painted them as the villains in the battle over the longer school day.

So, they met with aldermen in an effort clear the air. The briefing sessions, at a downtown hotel, allowed aldermen to hear directly from the union.

The mayor’s right-hand man in the council said the union has some work to do.

“I do think the teachers’ initial public relations was lacking because it clearly made them look as if it was more about money than about kids, it was more about teachers’ workload than about the school day. So, I think today was an attempt by them to re-focus,” 40th Ward Ald. Pat O’Connor said.

“They need to represent their position better, but I also think negotiation through the media is not helpful,” 17th Ward Latasha Thomas said.

Emanuel picked an issue no one could oppose — more time in school for kids —  and demanded the union go along. The council already passed a resolution supporting a 90-minute longer school day.

“Everybody wants a longer school day. That’s like me saying I’m against cancer. Of course I’m against cancer,” 6th Ward Ald. Roderick Sawyer said.

The union insists its position hasn’t changed. Officials say the curriculum for a longer school day — and compensation for it — should be decided in negotiations for next school year’s contract.

“All we said from day one is we would like to see a cogent plan, and they have yet to put forth one,” CTU president Karen Lewis said.

Of course, aldermen don’t have any direct control over school matters. But the teachers union is looking for friends anywhere they can find them.

One other interesting point: CPS CEO J.C. Brizard invited the union to join him in selecting 25 more schools that could implement a longer school day in January.

Surprisingly, Lewis didn’t reject this offer out of hand.

“We’ll have a conversation about it,” she said.

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