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Chicago's big school deal: Longer days for kids, hundreds more teachers

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools have come to a rare agreement, and both sides are claiming victory.

Under the tentative agreement, hundreds of teachers -- 754 of them -- will be added to the payroll, primarily in elementary schools. Two hundred seventy seven teachers were already in the pipeline, but Tuesday's agreement adds 477 more.

Additionally, the school day for all students will be lengthened.

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Elementary school students will now attend classes for seven hours each day, up from five hours and 45 minutes. High school students will get an additional 34 minutes of instruction, with the full day now totaling seven and a half hours, announced Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale.

The agreement ensures that classes will begin as scheduled for the upcoming school year; Track E schools on Aug. 13 and regular track schools on Sept. 4.

Related: Chicago pushes longer school days as key to achievement

"A longer school day has been a goal for the last decade and a topic of other negotiations. Each time before, the interests of our students took a backseat. This agreement is a break with the past; a change that we've been waiting for, a change that we've been hoping for for a very long time and a change that is now coming," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a press event at Sexton Elementary School on the city's south side.

Sexton was one of the schools that last year voluntarily lengthened its school day.

The Chicago Teachers Union has long argued during contract negotiations for a "better school day" instead of a longer one.

"There was never anything in place to do the art, music, (physical education and) world languages," said President Karen Lewis.

Under the agreement, those subjects are specifically added to the curriculum.

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While all championed the longer school day announcement, they stressed that it is just one element in a long string of issues.

"We often say that a full school day is a necessary condition for success. We know it's not everything we need to do; we have curriculum, we have principal leadership we have to work on, etcetera, to make sure our schools are what they're supposed to be, but this is a great day for the kids of the city of Chicago. This is about them and what they need to do to be successful," said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard.

Lewis said issues pertaining to health care, salary, evaluations and discipline remain unresolved.

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