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Teachers Reject Plans in D.C. to Extend the School Day

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The District of Columbia school system is having trouble giving away the $5.1 million it has set aside to help schools extend the school day this fall, according to the Washington Post.

Only two of 42 schools eligible for the funding have voted to adopt a longer day school-wide, a recent Post article reports. An additional 16 schools have decided to partially implement longer hours, using teachers who volunteer to work longer days. At this point, it looks like only $1.1 million will be distributed, although schools have until August to sign up for longer days.

As we previously reported on the Time and Learning blog, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray announced in the spring that new funds would be available this year to help the district's lowest-performing elementary schools and all middle schools extend the school day.

District officials were hoping to build on the success they've seen at eight traditional public schools that used money from an innovation fund to increase the school day in the 2013-14 school year. According to the D.C. school systemstudents in extended-day schools improved their reading scores on 2013 district assessments by 7.2 percentage points and their math scores by 10.6 percentage points, compared with 3.9 percentage points in reading and 3.6 percentage points in math for students districtwide.

However, for a nontraditional schedule to be adopted at a school in the district, a committee of union members must recommend it and at least two-thirds of the school's teachers must vote for it.

The Washington Teachers Union has asked its members to vote against extending the school day, even though the additional hours come with bonus pay, because, its officials say, longer school days should be negotiated as part of a contract, the Post reported. The union's most recent contract with the district expired in September 2012.

"I think it's shortsighted and I think that it robs young people, especially our struggling young people, of the opportunity to get more instructional time," D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said to the Post about the union pushback. "I actually think when those teachers see huge gains and consequently get huge bonuses, I think the following year there might be more people who are apt to elect for [an] extended day."

Insisting on a bigger role in crafting a longer school day is not unusual for unions. The Chicago Teachers Union, for example, got a state labor board to block the implementation of a longer school day in Chicago in 2011 when Mayor Rahm Emanuel attempted to negotiate directly with schools.

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