Memo to CPS: It’s Time to Stop Saying “Full School Day”

Dear CEO Brizard and Marketing Department at CPS:

Many parents are tired of hearing the term “full school day.” A few dozen have emailed me since yesterday that they were also irritated by the letter that you sent home via US mail (calculated postage – 3 staff positions at CPS) lauding the “full school day” and explaining your view on the potential strike. Can you put these in backpacks next time?

I can only imagine how teachers feel about hearing the term “full school day.” Basically, it implies that our teachers are lazy, haven’t worked hard in years, were working an incomplete day. It’s hard to understand how, after learning that 92% of teachers voted for a strike authorization, this administration would continue to use insulting marketing terms to describe their work. Most teachers I have spoken to, and I speak to a lot, aren’t looking for a huge raise. They’re just looking for a little respect from their employer. To not feel treated as if they are the problem for what ails our youth in Chicago, which they are not.

Yesterday, while people were emailing me about this letter, I was sitting in my son’s school all day because CPS failed to send a nurse out, once again, to care for my son who has Type1 diabetes. A few hours into the morning, I got an email from someone else I  know, with a four-year old about two miles from my son’s school, who was told someone would be at her school only two days a week to care for her child. I can only imagine what is going on six miles south and west in this district.

Now, I know that we don’t have the funding to give every child the “world class education” they deserve, or even a safe day sometimes, so let’s stop pretending. But please stop insulting our teachers and insinuating that they are to blame. Let’s all admit, our day was too short but it wasn’t a one-sided deal and CPS offered this deal 30 years ago. And our teachers were still in front of our kids the same amount of time for core instruction as most districts. If you do the research, you’ll see our kids were shortchanged on recess and lunch (props for returning that), arts, PE, language, etc. Our core instructional time, when I compare it to many nearby districts, was at the same level, sometimes higher – even with the un-full school day. So let’s move on. Let’s ditch insulting marketing terms. I know they’re good for re-election campaigns, but they’re not good for the collective morale of this district. And we actually want to hear from you on some substantive educational policy.

And let’s start to work on funding issues, so we don’t have to cut the 477 positions next year that were put in place for the interim agreement. And so that maybe we can start hiring the social workers, PE teachers, nurses that our kids need, and put some money back into the art supply budget at high schools, the autism positions and violence prevention programs that were cut. As you know, many of our students are walking around in utter fear of being shot. And living with unimaginable grief that permeates neighborhoods beset by violence. This isn’t your fault, and it’s not any one person’s fault either. But please, it’s certainly not our teachers fault. They are dealing with deep-seated multi-generational poverty that continues to grow and violence in many of our schools, often without resources that could greatly help. Not saying every teacher is perfect. But they are not miracle workers. And they need your support, not to be reminded over and over that you think they haven’t been working a “full-school day.” It’s not effective and it would be wonderful if you could hit the reset button and start to work on a new tone in this district.


Wendy Katten