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Friction Mounts Over Longer Days in Chicago

Friction continues as the Chicago public schools, the nation's third largest district, moves toward lengthening the school calendar.To date, Chicago school days are some of the shortest in the country.

At the end of August, the district announced it would move to a longer year in all schools by 2012-13; the plan would add 90 minutes of time to the school day and two weeks to the year. But just last week, district officials announced a plan that would provide incentives to schools that lengthened their calendars earlier, much to the chagrin of the local teachers' union.

To implement the plan early, the majority of teachers at a school have to approve a waiver for the longer school days. On Friday, three schools agreed to the incentive package, which would provide an additional $150,000 in funds for the school itself and a $1,250 in bonus, equivalent to roughly 2 percent of an average salary.

The district said this week that it hopes more schools will accept the offer. If schools implement the extended plans this month, they receive the same package; if they implement the plan in January, it is reduced by about half. The incentives could cost the district $72 million if schools agree early.

But the incentive plan has raised a ruckus with the Chicago Teachers Union, which has apparently called the district's efforts to get teacher and principal buy-in "emotional blackmail" and coercion. Union officials say the district's incentive package is a way of circumventing the collective bargaining rights of teachers, according to the Chicago-Tribune.

Also on the extended learning front, the Houston school district has announced plans to implement some charter school techniques in its troubled city schools, including longer school days.

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