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Teachers union welcomes compromise, but says 7-hour day too long

Chicago Teachers UniPresident Karen Lewis enters room give press conference Tuesday April 10 2012 Chicago Teachers Unioffices Merchandise Mart Chicago.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis enters a room to give a press conference Tuesday, April 10, 2012, at the Chicago Teachers Union offices in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Lewis responded to Mayor Rahm Emanuel's announcement of a seven-hour school day requirement for elementary schools. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 10, 2012 8:10PM

The Chicago Teachers Union Tuesday afternoon applauded the mayor’s shift in his longer school day stance — cutting back his demand from 7.5 to 7 hours for elementary schools — but asserted the mayor has far to go on compromising.

“Once again, CTU has been proven correct. Today, the mayor moved his toe an inch from the line,” union President Karen Lewis said at a news conference at the group’s Merchandise Mart headquarters, calling the longer day a “political slogan, not an educational plan.”

“Now that the mayor is starting to listen to parents, teachers and research regarding the pitfalls of the longer school day program being pushed in school districts across the country, it is now time he used both ears to hear everything we are saying about the types of schools our children deserve,” she said. “It is not the length of time but the quality of time that truly matters here.”

Last year, CTU officials proposed a seven-hour school day modeled after the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools as a “starting point” for discussion. On Tuesday, they welcomed Emanuel’s counterproposal, but said they believed parents would still prefer a 6.5-hour day , which is closer to the statewide average. She wants to know how the city will pay for the longer day, considering the system faces big budget problems.

“The mayor still needs to tell us how he intends to pay for this. He should hold a news conference and announce how he will fund the art, music, physical education and world language instruction needed to give our students the world class education they deserve.”

Lewis also touted the findings of a new outside report on teachers’ work hours, finding they work an average of some 13 hours a day. Findings in the new report by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Labor Education Program, based on a survey of some 1,000 CTU teachers, include:

◆ Teachers work for 10 hours and 48 minutes on average during a standard school day, and spend almost an additional two hours working at home in the evening.

◆ Teachers work another three hours and 45 minutes on school-related work over the weekend.

◆ Teachers work 58 hours per week on average during the school year.

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