Updated: March 28, 2012 8:07AM
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing hard for a 7œ-hour elementary and high school day that would be the longest in the nation. He and his appointed board want this for all 405,000 students in 675 Chicago Public Schools, and they have no funding dedicated for it.
Other major U.S. cities have adopted an extended learning time schedule at great expense. In Massachusetts, they needed an additional $900 to $1500 per student and committed funding to just 19 schools. Philadelphia used a $55 million federal grant for a longer day at nine persistently low-performing high schools this year. Houston has dedicated just under $20 million for 20 elementary, middle and high schools to extend their school days next year. Not one of these cities attempted to roll out the long day across the entire district, as Emanuel wants to do here. He is insisting that even the CPS schools with the highest test scores adhere to this mandate.
“Pioneer” schools in Chicago that adopted the longer day in September (with the CPS lure of a one-time $100,000 grant and a small one-time teacher bonus) find the children exhausted, cranky and unhappy in school. Families lose quality time together. Children are unable to pursue interests outside of school. It is wearing on teachers as well.
Since this proposal was announced, CPS has not listened to parents’ concerns on this issue. North Side College Prep, Whitney Young, Clissold, Mt. Greenwood, Sutherland, Cassell, Drummond, 19th Ward Parents, Raise Your Hand, and Six Point Five to Thrive have more than 7,000 signatures against the unfunded 7œ-hour day.
Without careful planning, adequate funding and real meaningful dialogue among all stakeholders, nothing of significance for our children can come from this initiative. Many parents believe the media aren’t giving the issue the coverage it deserves and are failing to ask critical questions about funding, staffing and safety.
On Feb. 19, CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard told Fox News that the “peanut butter” effect of spreading a plan out across all schools has proven ineffective and that the plan should be targeted to specific schools based on their individual needs. He went on to say that the key to fixing the problems would be to reinvent the district that was never designed to serve all children and that he “truly believes principals and teachers at the school level know best how to make that happen.”
This ill-conceived, unfunded and poorly planned one-size-fits-all mandate won’t work for all students. We, as parents, agree with Mr. Brizard that improving the system will require examination of each school and reliance on the knowledge and expertise of principals, teachers and parents in each community to determine what is best for our children.