Friday, May 11, 2012

Chicago Uses Math to Ease Budget Problems

The only thing more alarming than the $700 million dollar deficit the Chicago Public Schools is running this year, is the fact it's had these budget deficits for many years before miraculously getting saved by founding money in Springfield, Washington, or by searching the lobby furniture in Hyatt hotels for loose change.  However,  this isn't a depressing story about budget woes because CPS has found a way to extend the school day and save money at the same time.

Currently CPS students have a 5 hour and 45 minute day, which is about 45 minutes less than the state average.  This is because over 30 years ago, the Board asked the teachers to move their lunch to the end of the day and have a closed campus schedule.  While many suburban districts go 6 and a half hours with a study hall, CPS has a day that is intense, but short.

Next year, CPS will go to a 7 hour day for students that will require teachers to do 35 minutes more teaching a day and 15 minutes more supervision at the elementary level.  They are expected to this for a 2% pay increase.  The automatic roughly 4% pay increase most teachers earn up to year 12 for experience would instead be frozen.  Basically, CPS is asking teachers to work 10 more days and go from a 6 hour and 15 minute day with 45 minutes of lunch after school to a 7 hour and 25 minute day.

However, the part that I just love is CPS is now telling teachers they're not getting their salary for a 7 hour and 25 minute day, but for a 7 hour and 40 minute day.   Those extra 15 minutes are too be banked and used to make teachers stay after school or come in on Saturday for professional development.  You see a new law lets CPS add as many hours to the work day as they want.  It seems to me that it's sill to tell teachers that they're banking 15 minutes a day.  Why not make it 2 hours a day?   It's not like it costs CPS any money.  However, this would allow teachers to owe CPS 10 hours at the end of the week.  Surely, the city could use 10 hours of free labor.  There are a lot of charter schools that would love to have some certified teachers, but there are also buses to drive and parking tickets to write.

CPS has taken a bold step in using math to stretch their spending, but can't we go just a little further?  You have to wonder what Juan Rangel could do with 30,000 certified teachers who owe the city 10 hours of work each week. 

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