All over Chicago, bloggers, message boarders, reporters and post-school playgrounds are abuzz with news of waiver votes happening at schools scattered throughout the city. For my family, the extended school day is nothing new.
What is new is that CPS paying for it. Or, more accurately, the teachers at our school voted to give up their stipend and take the flat 2 percent payout + $150,000 in discretionary funds of the Pioneer Program in exchange for teaching school for an additional 45 minutes (to our already extended day) each day. Starting Monday, The Boy and The Girl will attend school from 8 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., giving them an extra 5 minutes for lunch and 40 total minutes added to the music, art, technology and physical education that they already receive, giving them a full 60 minutes to explore these subjects. They'll retain the daily 90-minute literacy and math blocks that make up the core of their instructional day.
There is much debate over the extended day and public education in general these days in public forums and private living rooms and everywhere in between. Unfortunately, in education policy--as in parenting--we may only see the effects of our immediate actions 10 or 20 years down the line. But, I am fairly confident that a 7.5-hour day, structured in the above manner, will afford my children the kind of education I think that they--and their peers--need to become productive members of society in 16+ years. I believe that this new longer day will look nothing like the CPS-as-babysitter model feared by many.
And more importantly, the teachers at my children's school believe that this longer day is beneficial to the children. So much so that 83 percent of them voted to take a significant pay cut. In light of this, I am disappointed to learn that the 2011 Blue Ribbon Commission recommended that teachers pursue children-of-teacher admission to their schools as a benefit through CPS' Human Capital division (page 4). Won't someone please think about the teachers?