This week members of Raise Your Hand met with David Vitale and Abigayil Joseph, the President of the school board and the Chief of Staff to the Board President to discuss the extended day situation and associated funding issues.
We asked President Vitale if 7.5 hours was set in stone since this is the message we have received from other CPS officials at community forums. He said that as far as the board is concerned, no schedule has been decided upon yet for next year. The Board will need to approve any plan proposed by the management at CPS. This plan is a work in progress right now, according to Mr. Vitale, and will be dependent on funding from the state and other sources, which is not set yet for next year.
President Vitale added that CPS is still in the information-gathering stage and they are working with the Pioneer schools to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of the longer day schedule. Furthermore, an advisory committee was formed in part to help determine the content of the day. He stipulated that CPS cannot guarantee any consistent source of funds for next year and warned that funding and schedules may not be finalized until the end of the summer. He added that Pioneer Schools cannot count on the same money that they received this year.
Raise Your Hand expressed concern about an increase in time without an increase in necessary funds and positions to cover adequate arts, daily recess, increased PE, language, and whatever else is crucial to a school community. RYH is also concerned about the programs that could be cut at the expense of the extended day and expects transparency in the planning process.
President Vitale reiterated that there will not be a schedule in place for many months and schools are only working on draft schedules at this time. The state budget is not set until July; the CPS and CTU have until the end of June to negotiate their contract and therefore many variables will be unknown for months to come.
RYH expressed concerns that the implementation of the extended day seems heavily reliant on the abilities of individual principals to plan and execute. This is a lot of responsibility for principals with varied leadership skills and potentially no increase in funding. President Vitale said that parents should work with their principals at this time to engage in dialogue around the draft schedule. Again, this is part of an ongoing process that won’t be truly figured out for many months to come.
Raise Your Hand appreciates President Vitale and Ms. Joseph taking the time to discuss this topic with us. We look forward to continued conversations with members of the Chicago Public School system as the quest for a quality school day is pursued.