Chicago Students Head Back to Class as Battle Over Longer School Day Continues

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chicago Public School students returned to class Tuesday following a dramatic summer for their teachers and new CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard.

An estimated 300,000 students and 20,000 teachers headed to their prospective schools following an aggressive push by Brizard and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to have 100 percent attendance on the first day. One way the city tried to reach that goal was by offering free bus and train rides to kids and adults traveling with them between 5:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

"I think everybody is glad to see the young kids back in school. And with the economy the way it is, with so many parents struggling the way they are, school is probably the best place for them to be," 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell, said at a South Side barbershop Monday, according to the Chicago Tribune.

For the past 12 years, Cain's Barber College has offered free haircuts to CPS students, ABC Chicago reports. The students also received donated book bags and school supplies. Those who show up to class on the first day will get a free pass to the Museum of Science and Industry as well.

Late last week, Brizard and Emanuel received some welcome news from three small schools, where teachers voted to add 90 minutes to their day during the upcoming academic year. The Chicago Teacher's Union reacted angrily to the news, calling Brizard and Emanuel's attempts to "bribe" those schools to get what they wanted "political school reform at its worst."

In exchange for agreeing to the longer school day, the two schools making the change immediately will receive up to $150,000 in discretionary funds, to improve classroom instruction. Their teachers will receive a one-time lump sum bonus roughly equal to 2 percent of their district's average salary. The teacher's union also said those who agreed to implement the longer school day immediately received iPads for their cooperation, but school officials denied that claim.

Some parents told ABC Chicago they supported a longer school day, but felt teachers should be fairly compensated for the extra classroom time.

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