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The race for City Hall

Jobs and schools promise to be top issues in next year’s city elections. The mayor’s education agenda faces its toughest test in the African-American communities that gave him strong support in 2011.

Emanuel backtracks on longer school day

Under pressure from parents who oppose a 7.5 hour school day, Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced that 7 hours would be enough for elementary school students. “No longer will we have to make false choices,” he said. “Teachers will not have to pick between science and social studies, math versus music, reading versus recess.”

High school students will have the 7.5 hour day four days a week, but will be released 75 minutes early once a week.

Emanuel said he never contended that 7.5 hours was a magical number, but that CPS’ current 5 hours and 45 minutes was short-changing children. He refused to acknowledge that he gave in a little to pressure, but insisted that with a 7-hour day he will reach still reach his goal of more classroom time.

Emanuel also pointed out that the new school calendar, passed at March’s Board of Education meeting, adds 10 more days to the year by eliminating some holidays and days when students are not in school because of professional development and report card pickup.

CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said the decision was made after meeting with more than 60 groups of parents.

“We want them to know that we didn’t just listen, we took action,” he said.

The decision comes amid mounting opposition to extending the school day to 7.5 hours. Different groups had slightly different reasons for their opposition, but had a unifying concern that the district doesn’t have enough money to fill the day with high-quality, engaging activities.

CPS officials announced in March that the district is facing a budget deficit in the range of $700 million this year. Soon, principals will receive their school-level budgets.

Given the projected deficit, it is difficult to see how the school budgets could include much extra money for activities in a longer day. Officials have alluded to the fact that they plan to give principals more discretion.

Emanuel said that the emphasis has been getting money out of central office and into schools. “It is about prioritizing,” he said.

Costs still in question

Jonathan Goldman, a member of Raise Your Hand, said that he thinks that Emanuel’s announcement is “a step in the right direction.” “At least CPS is recognizing that parents want to be at the table,” he said.

But he and his fellow group members still have reservations about how the district plans to pay for the longer day. In meetings, CPS officials have acknowledged that extra time will not automatically result in better learning, but that the additional time must be coupled with quality classes.

Maureen Cullnan, who is part of a group of parents from the 19th Ward on the far South Side, said that when Emanuel talks about having time for every subject, including science, it is disingenuous if no money is attached.

“Do you know how expensive science labs are?” she said.

Steven Guy, a member of the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization whose grandson attends Fuller Elementary, questioned whether even the 7-hour day would be an improvement.

“How is it going to make a difference if you add an hour to something when you’re not financing what the kids need [now]?” he said. “How are they going to pay for it?”

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis reiterated the union’s call for more money in its report “The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve.”

“Today, the mayor moved his toe half an inch from the starting line,” she said. “The mayor still needs to tell us how he intends to pay for this.”

Parents on both sides

At the press conference announcing the change, Emanuel and Brizard were flanked by politicians and principals and parents from schools that had pioneered a 7.5-hour day. Thirteen schools were given grants of between $75,000 and $150,000 to go to the extended schedule this year, before the pilot program screeched to a halt when a judge ruled that the district’s program violated fair labor practices.

Disney II Magnet Elementary teacher Adrienne Garrison said the extra time gives her space to differentiate instruction. She uses some of the time to allow her 3rd-graders to do independent research. They ask question and find the answer and put the results on the “wonder wall.”

Schools that adopted the extra time, like Disney II, must alter the schedule so it fits within the 7- hour time frame. Principal Bogdana Chkoumbova said she isn’t sure what the school will cut back on next year, though she suspects it will be “specials,” and not core subject instruction.

“It is to be determined,” she said.

Skinner North parent Chris Gladfelter, whose school also was part of the pilot program, said that many parents at his school will be relieved by the decision. A survey of parents at the school found that less than half liked the 7.5-hour day.  Those who didn’t like it were divided among wanting to move to a 6.5-hour day and a 7-hour day.

Gladfelter said he took his 2nd-grader out of some afterschool activities so that she would have time to come home, do homework and play. “We get to 7:30 at night and we have done nothing all day but school,” she said.

Gladfelter, however, admits Skinner North may not be a great barometer for whether the longer day is needed or successful. The students arrive at the school already achieving at high levels.(Skinner North is a classical school.)

Mary Anderson, executive director of the Chicago chapter of Stand for Children, said she thinks the vocal opposition is not representative of most parents. Anderson said her group still wants to see a 7.5-hour day implemented.  

“We are going to hold them accountable to their original proposal, she said.

Anderson said her group represents the silent majority. This weekend, the Chicago chapter will have a kick-off event and Anderson said 200 parents from all over the city will attend.

“We are concerned about the 120,000 students in failing schools that need the extra time,” she said.


Anonymous wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

CPS will lose great principals too with this new unREACHable

teacher evaluation process! Shame!

And if money has nothing with LSD--where are the school budgets????

Anonymous wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

The money wasted and redoing IEPs!!!!

Our school redid the IEPs and had to pay our teachers for this--now they all have to be changed back!!
Rahm--you cost the taxpayers lots of money with this--should have thought it out better the first time--you just shoot first and aim later.

layoff? wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago


if you are so concerned about children why do you try to make the teachers your enemy? they are the ones who were helping children LONG before education became a hip "passion". 1/2 isnt going to make a difference in the undrfunded, robotic ennvrionement of cps!

layoff? wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

45 day notice!

I bet the next News Confernce is the "economic" emergency and layoffs!!! i bet you any money!!!!!!

George N. Schmidt wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Rahm's pirouette

I covered the stories about the reduction from the 7.5 hour longest school day on April 10 (by my estimate there are at least four main ones, plus maybe one or two others) and finally report that it was a ballet version of "Much Ado About Nothing (Chicago style...)"

Basically, Rahm did a pirouette, moving frantically while basically remaining in the same place. It was fun to watch and photograph — especially the teachers and principals smiling as Rahm's background, and the army of press flacks Rahm and Jean-Claude cart around with them at all times; they outnumbered the actual reporters.

But when the story was hitting the schools (that principals meeting that took place at the same time on the west side), the basic reality was another example of the complete meltdown of CPS leadership under the mercenaries imported by Rahm to run the school system since June. "Clueless" would be a droll understatement. No discussion about the LSD deals with any of the key realities, except in cliches and talking points.

Money? "Be creative!" Using what — Monopoly money to pay for librarians and art teachers and coaches and gym teachers that are already missing from far too many elementary schools...?

Security? "We have more cameras than ever..." But no one to watch them, let alone rush to help victims when crimes become visible on them; by the way, that Fenger "study" is crooked data and would get an "F" in any statistics class... Now CPS has a chief of security with (a) no law enforcement experience, (b) no school security experience, but (c) an MBA from my alma mater, so...

(d) we all know that all the schools will be safer as soon as Jean-Claude spends $10 or $20 million on useless cameras to some outfit the mayor's people like.

And the schools still won't have enough real security people and the cops still won't have enough people on the streets and near the schools to stop what's "kicking" before the gunfire starts.

High Schools? "We're making all the kids stay for 7.5 hours most of the days, except when we aren't..." Which is most days? And what about the kids who are simply going to leave? Will the data sets simply be adjusted, in the hope that nobody from the real world will stop by and notice that more than half the kids in most of the high schools have become MIA by noon or one o'clock?

I could add some others, but we'll be reporting this one for a day or two.

One last observation about our brothers and sisters in the press corps.

Why the ____ would anyone think it was a good idea to ask two completely irrelevant questions about the Kochman special prosecutor and the Daley deposition unless it was to give Rahm the chance to run out the clock (which Fran Spielman's questions truly did)?

Bob Busch wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Next Year

High School Schedule

About a month ago I was able to get a copy of the
Proposed schedule for next year. On the surface it appears
To be straight forward in reality it is a sneaky attempt to
Deceive the public.
Currently the school has eight forty six minute periods
four days a week and a forty six advisory period once a week.
the new schedule still has only eight forty six minute periods
the extra period is tucked in between second and third and has
a name instead of a number.
It is called intervention by doing this every student can be cheated out of
enrichment or extra classes and just be locked up in a room
Like the study halls of old during this extra non numbered time.
Teachers will still teach five periods a day plus guard a intervention
period. By doing this the board can cover the extra time without
Spending a dime.

Esther wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

He's So Easy

Rahm Emanuel stated as he backed off the ludicrous 7.5 hour school day, "The goal was not the time." Ha! The goal was always only the time. He wants to have on his resume that Chicago has the longest school day in the country. He knows nothing about what constitutes a successful school day. He knows nothing about child development. He knows about making unilateral decrees.

What a shock to his fiefdom it must be to have the CTU and concerned parents oppose him. So far no other groups have stood up to his rash decisions. The biggest laugh came when he presented his $1.7 billion Infrastructure Trust speech and hoped that the City Council would approve it. When has the City Council gone against any Democrat mayor?

Rosita Chatonda wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago


Yes, the economic emergency will be used to make sure teachers do not get 4% raise.

Vin wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Rahm lives by Sound Bites

Be honest, Rahm does not sweat the details. Just like is public works PRIVATE COMMITTEE that will make decisions on the biggest public works. Even the Pro-Rahm Tribune, said that there is no oversight nor accountability in his undefined Sound Bite Plan. Sorry Rahm, you are stinking up the place!

George N. Schmidt wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Economic emergencies and four percent raises

As some people know, the unions still have a grievance working its way through the process against the Board's denial of the four percent raise. The next hearing is coming in about two months. Basically, Tim Cawley lied to the Board (of course the Board voted to endorse the lie) when he presented the Power Point on June 15, 2011 showing the alleged "deficit." That claim was the basis upon which the Board voted to ignore the contractual four percent raise for its workers. Since that moment, the Board has proved in hundreds of ways that it had, in the FY 2012 budget, the $100 million that four percent would have cost it.

Anyone who is paying attention to the monthly Board meetings can see that every month the Board has approved spendings, small and large, that are discretionary, while the four percent raises are contractual. Basically, the "Atlas Shrugged" fans who make up the current Chicago Board of Education and their scriptwriters, talking point generators, and Power Point scribes try to spin every reality from their bluntly ideological point of view.

Therefore, by their crazy thinking, a contract with the system's more than 32,000 union workers can be broken on the basis of a mendacious and fictitious Power Point (delivered by a guy who just arrived with a residency waiver from AUSL, and before that Motorola), while the Board can then shovel millions to its crony contractors and even more crony "officers," "chiefs," and various other examples of the crony capitalist nonsense that is currently passed off as reality at 125 S. Clark St.

There are hundreds of examples of how the Board wastes money or spends it in ways that need to be challenged.

At the March 28 Board meeting, for example, the Board members voted (after coming out of executive session) that CPS needed a new guy at $170,000 per year to be "Chief Information Technology Officer." Same day, a guy named Robert Boik (like Tidmarsh, a "new employee") began his new career in Chicago as "Chief of Staff to the CEO" (at a salary of $165,000 per year), with moving expenses of $12,000 on top of that. This is going on every month, and has been since the Rahm Board was created in June 2011 and made its first attack on the unions by announcing to the world that it had that "fiscal emergency" that required it to break the contracts with all of its union workers — while creating one-by-one more than 100 new individual contracts with all these Brizards, Cawleys, Boiks, Tidwells and others since.

But the most interesting example of the Board's lies came when the books for the fiscal 2011 books were audited and the CAFR came out in December 2011. At the time Cawley was talking about that new "fiscal emergency," CPS was supposedly ending the year of its previous "fiscal emergency." That's the one Ron Huberman was talking about in April 2010 that you can find reported in all the media (except Substance) with a straight face. Remember that "deficit" and the former Board's vote to take out (as a cost of roughly a million bucks) a "line of credit" because, back in June 2010, there wasn't enough money to pay the bills at the end of the fiscal year?

Never needed.

CPS wound up that fiscal year with a "fund balance" of more than a half billion dollars. That's the biggest in history, coming off the Big Lie of Huberman.

And just so no one comes in and says that Cawley couldn't have known, at the time (June 2011) Cawley and the Board were tearing up the union contracts and denying the people who actually work in the schools every day those four percent raises, the Board's quarterly financial statements (which it doesn't share with the public, unless you ask for it under FOIA) showed that that half billion surplus was already heading his way.


There are little lies (all those new administrators) and big lies in this "fiscal emergency" story. But when the final arbitration comes, and the Board's people have to testify under oath about the actual numbers that justified their claim -- claim, not reality, in that mendacious Power Point -- on June 15, 2011 about that "emergency" at least the facts will become public.

While it's unlikely that those facts will be reported here at Catalyst (which in matters financial has been worse than brain dead for a decade or more, especially when the Board is spinning those annual Chicken Little tales about 'DEFICITS! DEFICITS!!), they will become more public than they even are now.

So let's not say that "the economic emergency will be used to make sure teachers do not get 4% raise..." It's not true and won't become true. Some work just takes time. And despite the axes some people are trying to grind, the union has been working on it since the Board told that Big Lie on June 15, 2011 and Catalyst and the rest of my colleagues in the press corps reported it to the public with a straight face.

Anonymous wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

nwea and common core URGENT!!

I have question for some testing expert. CPS is moving to a Common Core curriculum. However, CPS teachers are being rated on NWEA results. Map testing started in 1997 basically. I assume that most of it's questions date back to then. For the very least, I know that the questions are about the same since our North side School started taking it 4 years ago. The Common core standards were written in 2009. These tests are 10 years apart in age. My question is....HOW can NWEA claim to be Common Core aligned?

Are teachers being evaluated on test that is not even aligned to Common Core standards?? I have been told AT CPS PD meeting that “ no text is common core aligned?” How is NWEA magically all of sudden Common Core aligned?
Is this possible?

I want to know from some testing expert: Is the NWEA testing Common Core standards? If not, why is it being used to judge teachers who are being asked to teach "one in wide but 1 mile deep"...when the NWEA seems to touch on MANY MANY random skills??

George N. Schmidt wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago

Common Core nonsense, or CASE on steroids

As "accountability" based on the so-called "Common Core" looms, teachers will begin to notice and document how "Common Core" is more a stupid marketing slogan than an actual instructional program, let alone a serious curriculum. However, as those who have had to follow the ravings of Jean-Claude Brizard and his merry band of miscreants learned for the past ten months, they are lousy at running schools or managing anything about Chicago, but masters and mistresses of repeating banal talking points, mindless slogans, and other nonsense that includes the phrases "Common Core" and "World Class..." It's like a paint-by-numbers game from a child's blank book. Only these people are serious.

There is no common core, let alone a "Common Core." Only outlines, slogans, and some serious pedagogical nonsense (as we've been reporting, along with others, at

As to teacher evaluations in Chicago...

It's clearly possible that some underqualified and overpaid "Network" official (possibly, with an MBA and no teaching experience anywhere) is going to force some equally undercompetent and clueless FNG principal (ditto) to try and rape every veteran teacher's ratings with "Common Core", NWEA, and other craziness.

The best advice right now: save everything and document everything.

Today (Friday the 13th), for example, a lot of the "PD" is going to range from boring and irrelevant to obnoxious and offensive. If teachers are beginning to save every scrap of information (digital and paper) along with every absurd utterance (usually, those come out loud, not in print), we're going to have fun soon...

First, by reporting just how crazy all this is at ground level where real children are in real schools right now... and

Second, by adding it to the massive grievances that are going to be necessary as soon as clueless and the crew push the ratings and lesson planning games too far.

I know things are worse today (in some ways only; to learn about what "bad" was back in the day, ask your parents about "CHICAGO MASTERY LEARNING..." or "CONTINUOUS PROGRESS MASTERY LEARNING" at some point to note for the sake of historical accuracy that mindless has been in power a long long time) in some ways.

But the odds are very very good that a year from now Chicago teachers and PSRPs are going to have the strongest and most enforceable contract since CTU first genuflected before the Amendatory Act and Richie Daley back in the 1990s under the old old UPC and Tom Reece. Two decades of company unionism are ending and we are moving towards some cool contract enforcement along with everything else.

The lengthy narrative that will be required for each of these grievances (which will also provide a "Saturday Night Live" script of nonsense if you can gather all the nonsense in one place; we'll supplement it with quotes from Brizard, Donoso, Cheatham, and the next dozen or so overpaid outsider mercenaries who are currently sucking down the dollars here) will improve with age, while the pretensions of those uttering the latest generation of platitudes will shrink with sunlight.

Start preparing now. Get one of those storage boxes from the supply store (if you can't afford it, we'll supply one from Substance; call); mark it "Absurdities, Common Core, PD, and Rahmland..." or something else appropriate; and just put the stuff into the box until you need to sort and share it.

Here is what is likely.

By the time the grievances get to the final stages and CPS is still wasting thousands of dollars defending its nonsense, the witnesses will have departed for other lucrative locations courtesy of the Broad Foundation and the rest of the paymasters of the New Mercs.

Who today remembers Pedro Martinez (who crafted the nonsensical budgets of just four years ago, to be followed by a half dozen other "CFOs" at CPS under the "business model")?

Remember when Janey Ortega was terrorizing a part of the Southwest Side?

Or Colonel Rick Mills the Northwest Side and the military schools?

Teachers, parents and students who can survive the platitudes of Arne Duncan (who last ruled here in 2009), then Ron Huberman, then Terry Mazany, then Jean-Claude Brizard can begin to face all this stuff with a sense of humor. Catalyst and the rest of my colleagues in the corporate media may not think that the fact of four CEOs in less than five years is just another example of the bankruptcy of the "business model", but most of the world knows you don't build a serious and stable reality for kids by playing management musical chairs and then pontificating about how great you are. Even if your latest scriptwriters are Rahm's buddies straight from the Hollywood that gave us the teacher bashing and union busting propaganda from "Stand and Deliver" all the way to "Waiting for Superman..."

cps wrote 2 years 39 weeks ago


thanks! you are like the Braveheart of teachers....I am glad I am not the only one who thought this common core stuff was a bit fishy. reminded me somehow of the emperors new clothes...when the people finally see these standards in the light...they will realize that they are just some random "words de jour" that mask teaching standards. to me they make the old state standards look almost "nurturing"!! I have a sense that these Common Core standards are gonna be like our new little red book the Communists used to carry around in the cultural revolution. If you say anything faintly negative against the common core standards or NWEA...your principal is gonna give you a good Charlotte Danielson lashing!!

thanks for the good read!!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

What about the substitute teachers?

What about us poor substitute teachers who don't know WHEN and IF we are working?? What about if we have Doctor/therapist appointments, of which I have several EACH WEEK? Am I supposed to choose between my HEALTH, and being able to PAY MY RENT?? What about the fact that I cannot stand on my feet for so long?? PHYSICALLY, AND EMOTIONALLY THIS WOULD BE TOO DRAINING ON ME, ESPECIALLY IF I WERE TO WORK MORE THAN 1-2 DAYS A WEEK!!

Anonymous wrote 2 years 38 weeks ago

Being a substitute teacher,

Being a substitute teacher, and having many physical problems, and needing to have many doctor and/or therapy appointments later in the afternoon, this longer day will be IMPOSSSIBLE FOR ME TO WORK AT ALL!! Am I supposed to choose between taking care of myself, and earning the small amount that I have just to pay rent, or am I supposed to work until I DROP??? The longer day would be too long for me to endure! What do you say about that, dear RAHM?? Especially since your own Dad was a Pediatrician, one whom some of my friends used for their own children?? Shouldn't you be more sensitive to the needs of those who need medical attention, and not punish your teachers, substitutes, and anybody else who works in CPS?? Please tell me your HONEST OPINION!!

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