From Chicago News Cooperative by Rebecca Vevea:
With legal action from the state’s attorney general looming, Mayor Rahm Emanuel agreed to stop his efforts to implement a longer school day this year by offering financial incentives to schools that add time.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan told both sides earlier this week that she was ready to file the injunction against Chicago Public Schools to stop additional schools from cashing in on the district’s offer.

“As we do in every legal case, we encouraged the parties to meet,” said Natalie Bauer, a spokeswoman for Madigan. “It’s much easier to avoid having to go to court.”

According to both sides, CTU president Karen Lewis asked Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools chief executive Jean-Claude Brizard to meet with the union to resolve the issue. “This is an unnecessary dispute,” Lewis said Friday.

Emanuel has been steadfast in his push for a longer school day, repeatedly saying Chicago children were being “cheated” out of an education and courting support from parents, community leaders, clergymen and others.

The mayor’s efforts were temporarily thwarted last month when the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board unanimously voted to ask Madigan to grant an injunction requested by the union in an unfair labor practices lawsuit. In that lawsuit, the union argued that district officials unlawfully coerced and bribed teachers in an attempt to circumvent the union.

On Friday, Emanuel backed off of his aggressive push to implement a longer day this school year. “I think we all agreed that our energy should not be in the courtroom, that our energy should be in the classroom,” he said.

The voluntary agreement between the CTU and the school district will allow the 13 schools that have already decided to add extra time to continue as planned. But CPS agreed to stop implementing its pilot program, which gives individual schools additional money if teachers vote to waive a portion of the union contract and lengthen the school day by 90 minutes.

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