In the last six months, the Mayor and CPS have been working hard on selling a 7.5 hour school day to parents, students and teachers. Just the time involved in doing a "Find and Replace" on all the name changes for this campaign must demand a full time job.
They have been telling us if we ‘build’ a 7.5 hour day, the good grades, higher graduation rates and college-readiness will come. The Mayor has been telling us the “emptiness” behind the eyes of students will be filled if we simply move to a 7.5 hour school day.
As I see it, CPS students are starving for a better and more fulfilling education. In response, the Mayor and CPS have simply specified a bigger refrigerator. This refrigerator has more capacity but what is the true nutritional value within? They have come out with a menu (guidelines) of what the day should have but what they are also implicitly saying is that you have to stretch your already tight budget to fill up this new larger refrigerator with items they feel you need.
We have spent the last few years hearing CPS and the state of Illinois tell us there is a budget deficit crisis every year, and certainly not enough money to cover more than the basics (which does not include capital improvements, recess, PE, arts, music, science, library, technology, world language, etc. for many schools). So schools have learned to beg, write grants and fundraise so they can provide these additional basics for their students. This has created an inequitable system where you probably cannot find two schools in CPS that have the exact same resources.
Schools have to be lucky in who they have as a principal, staff, parents and students. They have to hope that they have strong parent leaders who can work tirelessly, scheduling volunteers and fundraising. They have to hope they have a principal and teachers, who are willing to spend hours away from their own families, promoting the school and working with parents on fundraising projects. And as schools are asked to come up with their own plan for the best way to use a longer day, luck will once again be the factor that decides the quality of education your child gets rather than any broadly applied CPS policy or program.
Parents know that when we have limited resources and we increase the school day by 25%, something’s got to give and it is this question that fuels the serious concern. What will it be? Increased class size, recess takes the place of PE, losing more security guards, schools cleaned only every other day?
In the last six months, Raise Your hand has talked to diverse groups of parents, and community groups. The one consistent thing that everyone has agreed on is that unless CPS has a plan for changing the way our children are educated, more of the same is not a solution. We have also talked to many officials at CPS who have a wide range of confidence levels about funding- some optimistic some pessimistic-but there is one consistent mantra from all of them: “Our priority is a longer school day.” And this is the point when my trust and hope becomes strained; shouldn’t the priority of CPS be a better more fulfilling day for our kids and not just longer one? So to the Mayor and CPS, don’t give us a bigger refrigerator and then expect us to fill it. As it stands right now, this full day seems pretty empty to me.