Several hundred people, including many parents and dozens of members of Students for Education Reform groups at local universities, packed a room at downtown Roosevelt University on Saturday morning for the launch of Stand for Children’s Chicago chapter.

Jesse Ruiz, a member of the Chicago Board of Education, pledged to work with the group to “prioritize resources for quality schools,” and a number of elected politicians made similar pledges. Phillip Hampton, the district’s executive director of family and community engagement, was also supportive.

“Your efforts to extend the longer day were important,” Hampton told the group. “Our goal is to eventually get to a 7.5-hour day.” (Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a compromise earlier this week, backtracking from the 7.5-hour school day he originally proposed.)

Parents also shared stories of their issues with the school system. “I used to see kids standing outside [the neighborhood elementary school] at 9:15 a.m.,” said Angela Williams, whose children attend Betty Shabazz Charter School and South Shore International College Prep High School. “I was very involved as a parent, [but] suddenly I was a bad guy.” At Shabazz, she says, parent involvement is welcomed.

The group asked participants to share why they supported a longer school day and how they want to see the extra time used. Starting this week, it will offer 25 to 50 participants an 8-week class at “Stand University for Parents,” held at Bradwell Elementary (an Academy for Urban School Leadership turnaround school.)

Outside, members of the Chicago Teachers Union critical of Stand for Children’s funders held a picket, chanting “Billionaires, billionaires, we’re no fools, Stand For Children destroys our schools.”

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