Emanuel sloughs off Daley’s criticism of longer school day
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter email@example.com May 1, 2012 3:34PM
Updated: May 2, 2012 12:07AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday sloughed off his first public break with his predecessor and political mentor, former Mayor Richard M. Daley, over Daley’s surprise opposition to a longer school day.
Daley told a television interviewer this week that he’s changed his mind on the value of the longer school day Emanuel has championed.
“At first I thought it was [a key to a better education], but I don’t think so,” Daley said in an interview Monday night on ABC-owned, WLS-Channel 7 News.
“To me, to take a fourth-grader or a sixth-grader or a high school student, and say you’re going to stay more than six hours — we need quality instructions,” he said.
On Tuesday, Emanuel tried to turn a negative into a positive — by pointing out the similar views between the two.
“First of all, I agree with him on the better instruction. Quality instruction is essential, which is why I fought for being one of the first cities in the country to adopt the common core curriculum. And I think the foundation for achieving that quality instruction is a full day and a full year — not shortchanging our kids of a future,” the mayor said.
“And he also went on to talk about after-school programs that are essential for our children. So, the length of day, the quality of the education that goes into the day and the quality of time after school are essential.”
Ald. Pat O’Connor (40th), Emanuel’s City Council floor leader, was more pointed in his response to Daley. He noted that Daley tried to add at least 15 minutes to the school day, only to be thwarted by the Chicago Teachers Union.
“Clearly, it’s a change in course from where he had been while he was the mayor. It was a pretty consistent feeling that he expressed on a regular basis that we were way behind other countries in terms of the time children spent in school on a daily basis,” said O’Connor, who spent much of the Daley years as chairman of the City Council’s Education Committee.
“I don’t think he’s wrong when he says that the quality of teaching is probably more important. But clearly, it’s a change in his thought process since he left office. But maybe he’s seen it from a different vantage point now. When a guy’s out of office, I don’t know that you call it a flip-flop. At some point in time, he’s just changed.”
O’Connor noted that the longer school day was not just for students. It’s for parents, as well.
“As a parent of five kids who went through Chicago Public Schools, those few hours after school are really a concern for parents who are at work. Having children in a safe place doing constructive activities [is important.] If you knew they were safer in school for a little longer, it would make your work day a little easier,” the alderman said.
The shadow dance with Daley has been a sub-plot of Emanuel’s first year in office. Although the new mayor has never once mentioned Daley’s name in a negative light, he has trashed his political mentor virtually every chance he gets.
He has denounced Daley’s budgeting as “smoke and mirrors” and even gone so far as to call the last 10 years under Daley a “lost decade” for Chicago economically.