Then: 2011

CPS historically has had one of the nation’s shortest school days among large urban districts. In 2011, the state legislature granted Mayor Emanuel the power to lengthen the school day unilaterally. However, the CTU contract did not expire until 2012, so Emanuel achieved his goal using a waiver provision that allowed individual schools to voluntarily opt out of contract provisions. Thirteen schools accepted Emanuel’s bargain to lengthen their school days by 90 minutes in exchange for teacher bonuses of $1,250 and an additional $150,000 in school funding. After an outcry and unfair labor practice charges from the CTU, Emanuel ultimately agreed to stop expansion of the waiver program.

See Duncan, Emanuel tout longer school day, Catalyst September 2011; and CPS agrees to halt longer school day Pioneer Program, Catalyst November 2011


Once the union contract expired in June 2012, Emanuel used his legislative authority to bring the length of Chicago’s elementary school day to seven hours, with an additional half hour for high schools. He also added an additional 10 days to the school year, and made recess mandatory. One downside? Without extra pay for extra hours, the teachers union negotiated a provision requiring teachers to be at school only during the same hours as students, making staff meetings and teacher collaboration difficult. Experts agree that to improve their schools, teachers need time to work together.

See Emanuel backtracks on longer school day, Catalyst April 2012.


With the looming pension crisis and budget meltdown, will CPS be able to maintain a longer school day? The CTU has now made adequate teacher preparation time a priority in contract negotiations. Will they get it?

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