Teachers Union Battles With Denver Over Longer School Day

In anticipation of a budget plan that would see the school day extended across Denver Public School (DPS) middle schools, the Denver teacher's union has filed a class-action grievance.

Carolyn Crowder, executive director of the Denver Classroom Teachers' Association, said:

"We are not against extended learning opportunities, but the district so far has refused to negotiate with us."

DPS officials will now have to sit down with representatives from the teachers union to try and resolve the issue through a negotiation process. If they come to no agreement within seven days, then the case will go to an arbitrator.

The plan proposed by the DPS would see the school day extended by an hour in the afternoon, writes Yesenia Robles at the Denver Post. However, the union would want to ensure that schools themselves have the option of implementing the plan.

The union says:

"DPS communication to parents has centered around announcing changes instead of soliciting ideas. The planning teams from the fourteen schools were told to design their own plans and "think outside of the box" and yet, this past week were given "one-size-fits all" directives."

However, the district disagrees. It sees the process as allowing schools to apply for funds to extend the day, and from which officials are able to pick schools based on the best proposals.

DPS spokesman, Mike Vaughn, said:

"The opportunity for extended learning time for our students has remarkable promise for additional enrichment, student advancement, and extra learning for students who are behind.

"We look forward to receiving the school-based proposals for how they might extend their time and benefit their kids."

Teachers should be able to create their own guidelines on student supervision, says Crowder, who would also want to see teachers paid at the regular rate.

"As I understand what they propose is to pay teachers the professional development rate that they pay when teachers stay an extra day for a training session for instance, but this is not the same thing.

"We're not asking for them to make more money, just their regular teaching rate."

However, Vaughn insists that the district has no intention to milk teachers dry and would absolutely be sticking to contract.

"Any teacher who volunteers to work a longer day in these extended-time pilots will, of course, receive the extra pay specified in the collective bargaining agreement.

"We do not believe that this needs to be a conflict in any way with our teachers' union."

Longer days are also on the table for public schools in Chicago, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel pushing on with his decision to lengthening Chicago's school day to 7.5 hours.

However, the teachers' union and a parent group maintain that there is not enough research to support the move.

Raise Your Hand co-founder Wendy Katten said:

"Parents want a longer day, but the parents we hear from don't believe we need the longest day in the nation.

"Parents at Skinner North (who have already adopted a 7.5-hour day) feel their kids are already exhausted."

Chicago Teachers Union staff coordinator Jackson Potter said that the union will be looking for compensation for teachers who will be spending extra time in the classroom, a point currently being negotiated as part of new contract talks.

"Why do we have this lock-step approach?" Potter asked.

"Why can't parents' concerns be addressed, and why are we fixated on 7 1/2 hours?"

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