Mar 19, 2012
Rahm Emanuel and his handpicked school board have vowed to extend the school day in elementary and high schools by 90 minutes, to 7 hours and 30 minutes a day.
At most of Chicago’s elementary schools, students attend classes for 5 hours and 45 minutes. This day has only a 20 minute lunch break for students and no recess. Everyone, teachers, students, and parents, agree that the short elementary school day does not serve Chicago’s students.
But the question is how to lengthen it – what to include? What do good schools have, the kind parents want their children to attend? They have a broad and rich education, with art, music, life sciences and physical education for all elementary and high school students, in addition to math and English. They have foreign languages. Most elementary schools in Chicago have only art or music, not both, and almost none have physical education every day, even though that is required by law.
These programs require more teachers and supplies – meaning they require more money. And that’s exactly what Rahm and company are not proposing to provide.
They already forced 400 million in budget cuts on the schools this year, leading to the elimination of after school programs and larger class sizes.
Emanuel has made it clear that he does not intend to increase the number of teachers nor give additional pay for additional work-time. So teachers will be doing more work for almost no pay, and will have less time outside of work to prepare. This is not a recipe for improving education. A longer day without more time for teachers to prepare and without enrichment programs means that students will turn off from school – as so many already do.
No wonder many parents have come out against the 7½ hour day. One parent set up an online petition calling for a 6½ hour school day. So far, more than 900 parents have signed on.
If Emanuel wanted to improve education, he would start by reducing class sizes, and bringing back after the school programs that have been cut by him and Daley, the previous mayor.
But Emanuel’s goal is not to improve the schools – but to take money from them for the enrichment of the capitalist class he so loyally serves.