After months of heated negotiations and threats of strikes, Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union reached an interim victory in their contract talks. If the agreement holds, no longer will Chicago have the shortest school day of the largest urban districts - the two sides agreed to increase instructional time by 75 minutes for elementary students and 34 minutes for high school students. The Chicago school day will now be significantly longer for elementary students than those of some other large districts such as Hillsborough, Memphis, Montgomery County and Dallas.
Nearly 500 teachers who were laid off over the past few years will be re-hired to teach enrichment classes, averting the need for current teachers to increase their time in front of students (which was the union's biggest objection to the increased day). It's a solution costing the district $40-$50 million, far less than the nearly $330 million the district would have paid for the 15-20 percent salary increase recommended by contract arbitrators in exchange for the additional work time. Contract talks continue, with health care, evaluations and salary issues yet to be resolved.