Mayoral hopeful Emanuel unveils his plans for Chicago Public Schools

December 13, 2010

Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel on Sunday rolled out his wide-ranging plan for improving Chicago’s public schools by lengthening the school day, giving parents the authority to shut down under-performing schools and holding school leaders more accountable for the system’s successes – and failures.

Speaking at the Bethune School of Excellence on Chicago’s West Side, the former White House chief of staff said there’s no more important than education for the city’s next mayor. 

Several points of Emanuel’s plan involved rewarding teachers and administrators who oversee successful schools, and getting rid of those who don’t.
 
As mayor, Emanuel said he’d make principals sign a five-year contract with Chicago Public Schools that established benchmarks relating to attendance, graduation rates, budgeting and parent involvement.  If a school failed to meet them, its leadership could be replaced.
 
Emanuel’s plan also calls for restructuring the teacher pay scale so that teachers who are the “best of the best” could be making top-dollar in eight years.
 
His plan also revives the idea of lengthening the school day for CPS students, which is now one of the shortest in the U.S. among big-city districts.  For years Mayor Richard Daley has called for more classroom time, but has been unable to broker a deal with the teachers union about how to pay for it.
 
Emanuel suggested one option around the union would be to seek a state law that would set the length of Illinois school days.
 
“My first goal is to make the teachers a partner in these changes,” he said in an interview with WBEZ after Sunday’s speech. “But I am determined to see this change through.”
 
Emanuel also called for laying off teachers based not on seniority, but how effective they are; allowing a majority of parents to petition for the closure or turnaround of a school; and setting up a privately-funded award program that lets schools compete for more education dollars.