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Should Students Have a Longer Day at Select Boston Public Schools?

A proposal by Superintendent Johnson would tack two hours onto the school day at some Boston public schools. Do you think it's a good idea?

Come 2014 the school day may get two hours longer for some Boston public school students.

Superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson announced the change Wednesday. It's part of a policy she has the right to implement under the Boston Teachers Association’s current contract. The move creates “Project Promise” schools, and comes after two years of failed negotiations about how to extend the school day citywide.

Failed Negotiations

“We have tried and continue to try many different ways to resolve collective bargaining issues with the BTU,” Johnson wrote in a letter to the union. “The Project Promise provisions will allow us to give students more time at some low-performing schools, though we will not be able to extend the day at nearly as many schools as we had originally hoped.”

While supportive, Boston Teachers Union President Richard Stutman seemed surprised by the details. Stutman told WBUR they had been in talks about extending the day by one hour at twice as many schools.

“We don’t care one way or another whether she does it on our end,” Stutman said to WBUR. “We think it makes more sense, however, to spread the wealth to twice as many students. We not only think our idea is better, we think she agrees with us…”

Money Talks

Indeed, that seems to be the case, but it comes down to money.

In order to extend the day by one hour at all schools, Johnson was pushing for teachers to get paid $4,100 per year for the extra time, which equals about half of what they normally make an hour. And that’s been the sticking point.

“The Union will not accept anything less than the existing contractual hourly rate,” Johnson said in her letter.

Under the “Project Promise” plan teachers would be paid their established rate of $41 per hour, which is financially sustainable because it will be in half as many of the schools. Teachers who want to stay at the schools with an extended day would have to apply for those jobs, and if they don’t want to stay they can transfer to another school.

Where and When

While the specific schools have not yet been named, the Mario Umana Middle School in East Boston and the James Timilty Middle School in Roxbury are on that list. They were already running two hours longer, but in June Johnson scaled them back to one hour because the state stopped funding the extended day. That would be reinstated under her plan, she said.

With changes to staffing and transportation that would have to take place, the proposal itself likely wouldn’t go into effect until at least the 2013-2014 school year.

What Do You Think?

A two-hour longer school day will be a major change for both students and parents at the select schools. What do you think of the plan? Comment on the story to voice your opinion – we want to hear from you.

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