Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

No Online Classes For You!

The Chicago Teachers Union has been locked in a struggle with the city over pay, layoffs, and other sundry issues. Now they’re looking to block a plan to add 90 minutes to the school day, which just so happens to be among the shortest in the country. From the Chicago Tribune:

In an effort to extend what is one of the nation’s shortest school days, Chicago Public Schools plans to add 90 minutes to the schedules of 15 elementary schools using online courses and nonteachers, sources said.

By employing nonteachers at a minimal cost to oversee the students, the district can save money and get around the teachers’ contract, which limits the length of the school day. Mayor Richard Daley has scheduled an announcement about the “Additional Learning Opportunities” pilot program at Walsh Elementary School in the Pilsen neighborhood. School officials declined to comment on the initiative….

The initiative is unpopular with leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union, who view the effort as a way to undermine their contract with the city schools. Because mostly nonteachers will be used to staff the initiative, the district will not have to pay union wages. Many of those who will oversee the classrooms will likely be either after-school providers or community partners.

Karen Lewis, the new fire-breathing head of the CTU, goes on to claim that she’s not against “anything that helps children” while simultaneously arguing that she opposed “drill and kill” style learning. There’s only one problem, as the article points out: similar initiatives have already helped a number of students in the Chicago Public School system.

The district already has a stable of online initiatives, including high school credit recovery programs and summer school courses to help students advance. More than 4,000 students gained credits through online summer school, officials have said.

But the new initiative is the product of a separate online pilot program the district launched last year, which provided online math courses to certain elementary school students. In those schools, students were encouraged — but not required — to attend extended school hours. District officials say math scores increased dramatically as a result of the online classes. [Emp. added]

So Lewis claims to be in favor of doing “anything” to help children learn, yet her union is leaning toward opposing a concrete action that will actually help children learn. Sadly, this is a pretty standard tactic: Say all the right things, do all the wrong things.

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