Teachers reject 2 percent pay hike for 90 more minutes in school day
BY ROSALIND ROSSI AND KIM JANSSEN Staff Reporters August 25, 2011 11:40AM
Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard speaks to members of the faith-based community to discuss the importance of providing Chicago Public School students with a longer school day and year. Thursday, August 25, 2011 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Updated: November 4, 2011 9:57AM
Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis Thursday rejected an offer of a 2 percent raise for working a 90-minute-longer school day, saying teachers would not be “bullied” by public attempts to push through a slapdash plan.
Lewis refused a proposal involving elementary-school teachers only that was aired in the media Tuesday evening by Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard and later amplified in writing to the union Wednesday morning.
“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,” Lewis said in a written statement. “To that we say thanks but no thanks.”
Lewis left the door open to further talks on the issue, however. She told the Chicago Sun-Times the union is crafting ways to add 15 to 60 more minutes to the elementary school day.
But Brizard’s written offer of a longer day that would start in January contained “a bunch of craziness” beyond 90 extra minutes in it, Lewis said. Chicago Public School officials said it included suggestions on adding five instructional days, such as by converting teacher-only days to student instructional days or by converting certain holidays to instructional days.
But otherwise, Lewis said, “There is no planning. This is just some stuff they threw out. It’s all political. There’s no discussion with the people who do the actual work.”
“We are not going to be bullied into doing something that is not going to help our children. Throwing something out as a public relations tool is not acceptable.”
Lewis’ comments came only a few hours after Mayor Rahm Emanuel stepped up pressure to fulfill his campaign vow of a longer school day and year by holding a prayer breakfast with 200 clergy at U.S. Cellular Field. There, he asked ministers to use the power of their pulpit this Sunday “to specifically speak about the need for a longer school day and school year.”
Some 400 ministers have signed a petition favoring the idea, CPS officials say.
Brizard, meanwhile, said in a statement that he was “disappointed” his offer for elementary teachers was rejected “despite the rising tide in support of the longer school day.” He called the offer an “honest compromise.”
“Every year, Chicago’s students get 10,000 minutes less in the classroom compared to the national average,” Brizard contended.
CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said officials asked to expand talks about how to pay for a 4 percent raise CPS says it can’t afford to include a longer day and year on Monday, and thought Lewis had agreed to talk to union members about the idea. Instead, Carroll said, officials found out through the media that the union had declared the talks stalled.
As a result, Carroll said, CPS has been unable to discuss specifics, including how it would find $15 million to bankroll the plan, but hopes to do so.
Lewis said her members are “livid” about an offer they say amounts to less than minimum wage and an attempt to divide the union — elementary versus high school. She has not received one call in favor of it, but “I had people screaming at me” not to take the offer.
A new school reform law gives CPS the power to unilaterally impose a longer school day and year, but not until after the current contract expires June 30. Before then, CPS officials need the union’s approval or waivers from teachers at individual schools agreeing to veer from the contract. Lewis urged members Thursday not to agree to such waivers.