CHICAGO (AP) — A state labor board on Thursday dealt a blow to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s aggressive push to lengthen the Chicago school day, siding unanimously with the Chicago Teachers Union, which wants to compel teachers and schools to abide by the te
CHICAGO (AP) — A state labor board on Thursday dealt a blow to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s aggressive push to lengthen the Chicago school day, siding unanimously with the Chicago Teachers Union, which wants to compel teachers and schools to abide by the terms of the current contract.
The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board voted 5-0 to seek injunctive relief to block the longer school day from taking effect this year.
Amid allegations of vote manipulation, threats and coercion by the board of education, Emanuel has persuaded just 13 of Chicago’s hundreds of elementary schools to break with the union and accept a lump-sum payment in exchange for adding 90 minutes of instruction per day.
The union wants the 13 schools to revert to the schedule outlined in the current contract and it wants to prohibit Emanuel’s administration from going after any more schools. It wasn’t immediately clear Thursday what the labor board’s injunction will call for, and board members said they could release a written decision later in the day.
The labor board will now go to the Illinois attorney general’s office, which will decide whether to petition a Cook County judge to grant the relief. Attorneys said that process could take weeks.
Chicago’s public schools have the shortest school day and one of the shortest school years among the nation’s 50 largest districts, according to a 2007 report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. But the Chicago Teachers Union insists the city’s hours of actual instruction are on par with other cities’.
Recently passed education reform legislation allows for Chicago schools to lengthen the school day next year, but Emanuel did not want to wait. He says the longer school day had the support of 68 percent of parents and teachers in a recent poll.
Under Emanuel’s education proposal, schools that agree to add 90 minutes of instruction time each day this school year can get up to $150,000, and teachers will get lump-sum payments equal to 2 percent of the average salary.
Schools were asked to hold votes on extending their day, and a yes vote meant waiving the negotiated hours and pay in the union’s contract with the city.
The union alleges the school board engaged in unfair labor practices and hasn’t bargained in good faith in pushing for the longer school day a year ahead of when new state legislation will allow for it anyway. The union accuses principals of telling teachers their schools would close if they didn’t side with Emanuel, ordering union representatives out of their buildings and allowing non-teachers to vote.
The labor board found last week that the union’s allegations warranted a full hearing, set for Dec. 14.
Teachers union attorney Robert Bloch told labor board members Thursday that the Chicago Board of Education "would end collective bargaining as we know it in in Illinois" if it’s allowed to continue its current push for a longer day.
Allowing the board’s waiver process to stand "would emasculate the CTU as a bargaining representative," Bloch said.
The board of education argued that reversing the longer school day would be too disruptive to the nine schools that have already changed their schedules and to the four that plan to change by January. Those 13 schools have about 4,000 students, a majority of whom are low-income minorities desperately in need of the additional educational time, board attorney Jennifer Dunn said.
"We cannot afford to take (time) away from any student in the Chicago Public Schools system," board of education attorney James Franczek said.
In August, the board of education approached the union about renegotiating the current contract to lengthen the school day and school year in exchange for 2 percent raises for teachers, an offer that came after the board rescinded 4 percent raises for teachers that had already been approved.
When the union declined the offer, Emanuel took his case — and his cash — to the elementary schools individually — a violation of labor law, union leaders said.
"Direct dealing is absolutely antithetical to collective bargaining," teachers union President Karen Lewis told reporters after the labor board vote.
Lewis and other union leaders say they’re not against a longer school day, but that there’s no research that proves a longer day means a better day. She called Emanuel’s insistence on "90 more minutes" a slogan, not an educational policy.
Labor board members took the vote immediately after oral arguments by attorneys from the union and the Chicago Board of Education.
Franczek said he was "dismayed" by the quick decision.
"It appears to me that the labor board had made up its mind before we came here for oral arguments," he said.
He said the board looks forward to continuing to collaborate with the union on the issue.
Lewis said she was stunned by the board’s decision and wants it to send a message to the board about what she called illegal labor practices.
"I would hope that it tells them that they have to take us seriously and bargain with us," she said. "That’s why we have these laws."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.