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Longer School Day Proposal In Chicago May Go To Court

A move to lengthen the school day for the 405,000-student Chicago school system may be headed to court.

The Chicago Teachers Union has asked the state labor relations board to intervene in the longer school day proposal, saying that teachers are being coerced into agreeing to the plan.

The state labor relations board had already found in a "notice of hearing" Oct. 13 that the union had presented enough evidence that a labor violation may have occurred. A hearing is scheduled for December that will determine the merits of the case. The union is asking the board to seek an injunction to halt extended school days until the hearing is held.

The longer school day proposal is backed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard, and a recent article in Education Week explored the issue in depth. While supporters say that a longer school day is a way to address achievement gaps, the union has seen the proposal as an attack on collective bargaining rights.

Schools where teachers voted to waive their contracts and approve the longer day for the 2011-12 school year were offered $150,000 and teachers were eligible for a one-time bonus of $1,200. Only 13 elementary schools took the district up on the offer, however.

The union says the district hasn't developed a solid plan for how to use the extra time, which would amount to about 90 minutes a day for elementary schools. It has come up with a counter proposal that it says would add 75 minutes of instructional time to the school day without lengthening the school day itself, according to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Based on the school day at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, the private school that Emanuel's children currently attend and where the Obama daughters went to school, the proposal would shift student and teacher lunches and add more time for art, music and foreign language instruction.

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