Students deserve better

By Editorial Board

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard have been fighting to extend the school day by 90 minutes as part of a larger initiative to improve the troubled school system. The Chicago Teachers Union rejected the proposed longer day, with CTU President Karen Lewis saying that more quality, not quantity, is what is needed to create a better learning environment.

CPS already has one of the shortest school days and years in the nation, and equally low test scores and graduation rates to accompany it. Not taking action, at this point, is not an option.

Emanuel’s proposed extended school day is a good start on the long road to fixing Chicago’s public schools. Some CPS students receive only slightly more than five hours of instruction time each day. U.S. Secretary of Education and former CPS CEO Arne Duncan was right in calling this a “disgrace.”

Lengthening the day will add much-needed instruction time that many Chicago teachers believe is lacking in the current day. It could lead to improved student performance and an increase in CPS graduation rates, which now hover around 50 percent

Lewis is right to point out that the quality of education is important. But students deserve both quality and quantity—it’s not a choice between the two. Extra time spent in school doesn’t just add more time for learning. It keeps kids—many of whom live in dangerous, gang-ridden neighborhoods—in a safe place.

Some opponents of Emanuel’s plan point to the fact that some suburban districts have only 15 more minutes of instruction time than CPS, with far better test scores.

What empirical data like that don’t reflect, however, is that a much larger percentage of parents in affluent suburbs have college degrees and comfortable income, allowing them better tools to assist in their children’s education.

Both sides have legitimate arguments. Teachers must somehow be compensated for this extra time spent working, even if it’s modest.

However, the sorry state of CPS and the effects on its students trump any salary issue. Many teachers have voiced support for the plan, despite the union’s public opposition. It’s time to get serious, put politics aside and work out the details for a reasonable compromise. The next generation of Chicagoans deserves a

better shot.