Part of the Bay Area News Group

Will fewer school days hurt students?

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, October 31st, 2011 at 6:13 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

As the state budget trigger looms, some school districts may be bracing for budget cuts that could include reducing the school year.

Already, at least eight East Bay districts plan to reduce their 2011-12 school years by one day or more from the traditional 180 days, even without the trigger.

They are:

ALAMEDA COUNTY:
New Haven 175
Newark 175

CONTRA COSTA COUNTY:
Acalanes 178
Byron 177
John Swett 178
Mt. Diablo 175*
Oakley 175
Pittsburg 179

*Needs to be negotiated with teachers’ union.

Last year, the Mt. Diablo school district cut three days from its school year. This year and through 2012-13, it hopes to negotiate seven furlough days with its teachers’ union, including five instructional days and two staff development days.

A policy brief called “Turning Back the Clock: The Inequitable Impact of Shortening California’s School Year,” released by Education Trust-West and other education advocacy organizations today, said shortening the school year hurts students, especially those who are poor or who are English language learners.

“Our policymakers have long applauded themselves for ensuring that California has some of the most rigorous academic standards in the nation,” said Arun Ramanathan, executive director of statewide education advocacy organization. “All California’s students, including the more than 50 percent of our students who are low-income and our 1.3 million English learners, deserve a full opportunity to learn those standards and perform on grade level. As a state with some of the widest achievement gaps and lowest student performance in the nation, reducing learning time in our schools should not be an option.”

AB 114 signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown allows school districts to shorten the school year by up to seven additional days if state revenues fall short of projections, which could result in 168-day school years in some districts.

“Our students deserve both the opportunity and time necessary to achieve their dreams of college and career,” Ramanathan said. “We call on the governor and the legislature to protect the rights of our children and prevent these harmful and inequitable cuts to the school year.”

Superintendent Steven Lawrence said in an e-mail that it is unfortunate that districts throughout the state need to balance their budgets by reducing school days.

“If we expect our children to complete (sic) both nationally and globally,” he wrote, “the state needs to fund education at a level that allows us to expand educational opportunities not reduce them.”

According to the report, most state school years are 180 days. Kansas is the state with the longest school year, at 186 days.

Some other countries, however, have much longer school years, including the Netherlands with 200 days, South Korea with 220 and Japan, which has 243 school days a year.

Here’s a link to the complete report: http://www.edtrust.org/west.

Do you think the Legislature should try to find another way to balance its budget?

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • Theresa Harrington

    I am referring to the post by John Q. I will do a post shortly that includes the same letter.

  • Tired Of The Rhetoric

    @John Q #97–Good question. Based on the SARC report for 2009-2010 (latest one on MDUSD website), the high schools are funded at vastly different rates:

    CLAYTON VALLEY–$7,849.12
    NORTHGATE–$8,288.21
    COLLEGE PARK–$7,503.54
    MT. DIABLO–$9,551.46
    CONCORD–$8,011.70
    YGNACIO VALLEY–$8,918.44

    While it makes sense that Mt. D and YV might be funded at a higher rate if there are Title I funds involved (not sure here), I can’t see why Clayton Valley and College Park are so far below Northgate and Concord. I’m not surprised Clayton Valley is looking for a better way to fund their kids’ education. College Park ought to be looking as well.

  • Doctor J

    Ok, I see his letter in #97. Rajan, please read the SARC’s — every high school, indeed every school, is funded at a different rate by the district even though the ADA amounts are set by the state. We even have some elementary schools that are funded at higher rates than our high schools. High Schools are intended by the state to be funded at higher rates — it costs more to educate teenagers, just like everything with teenagers costs more. Almost every elementary school only has a Principal and no Vice-Principal — and some have 700-800 children. The main high schools have a myriad of administrators. It just costs more, but they are getting in many cases less money than what the state designates. This is upside down. The leadership has let this get out of control. They haven’t listened — so action was taken. Now they are listening but no action. I hope the Board and the District Administration learns their lesson from the succession of CVHS.

  • Theresa Harrington

    NOTE: These expenditures are from the 2008-09 school year and include both restricted funds (such as Title 1) and unrestricted funds.
    Interestingly, though, even the unrestricted funds vary from site to site. I will outline these differences in the blog post I’m working on.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Agenda for Tuesday has been posted: http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us/public_itemview.aspx?ItemId=4670&mtgId=311
    It does not state whether the district intends to recommend approval or denial. It also doesn’t include any detailed staff report regarding the conditions of approval.
    It is unclear whether there will be a Powerpoint presentation and if so, whether the district will post it before the meeting.

  • Wait a Minute

    Board agenda is posted.

    They are not stating the Lawrence, I mean staff recommendation for the charter but they are of course highlighting their unsubstatiated claim of a financial loss that the law doesn’t allow them to consider.

    Business as usual!

  • Theresa Harrington

    Yes, but now the district states that the financial impact is $1.8 million, instead of the $2.4 million that was referenced in its Oct. 7 News Update: http://www.mdusd.org/NewsRoom/Pages/dnews-10-07-11.aspx.
    This is a difference of $600,000.
    It’s unclear why the estimated financial impact keeps fluctuating so dramatically.

  • MDUSD

    Our union rep has reported that the district has 24 million in reserves. There should not be more days cut.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Do you think this would also cover the projected loss of $1.8 million from the CVHS charter?

  • Just J.

    could the $600,000 difference be in the amount of funding Clayton Valley is getting now VS what they should be getting?

  • g

    Rajan says “the solution is clear”. Do they actually let him run a city? Does he divvy up the Walnut Creek funds equally, and make sure they spend exactly the same amount on Third Street that they spend on Broadway?

  • Anon

    Notice how there is no recommendation, unlike the previous time it was up for a vote?

    Beware charter proponents. My inside sources have advised me that there is a plan in the works for a stall to the vote. Watch for something along the lines of, “We have to wait until the FMCAT gives their final numbers”, or something along those lines.

    You think The Gary and Stevie boy are going to give up that easily? Trust me, the games haven’t yet begun.

  • MDUSD Board Watcher

    The rumor mill is heating up. Remember where there is smoke there is fire.

    October Surprise Anyone:

    Whitmarsh is (allegedly) telling parents that they will vote no on the charter. If the charter proponents take it to the county and win then Whitmarsh (allegedly) said that the board will shut down one of the feeder schools in the CVHS feeder pattern.

    Remember Gary previously threatening retribution (Search MDUSD Parody on youtube), well his lap dog Whitmarsh has taken up the retribution threat.

  • Theresa Harrington

    Here’s a new blog post with Rajan’s letter, followed by Clayton Mayor David Shuey’s response and a look at how much the district spends per student per school: http://bit.ly/siwjAl

  • Just J

    @ 113. Sherry can spout all the bull she wants. They will not shut down pine hollow or diablo view. Just a bunch of bs

  • g

    Actually, maybe it’s time for a Clayton City K-8 School District!

  • Wait a Minute

    This proposal is total crap.

    Basically a POISON PILL.

    First of all–THE ADA IS THE PEOPLE’S MONEY, NOT THE MDUSD’S MONEY.

    It follows the students, not Stevie or Greg or Ebermarsh’s overpaid compensation for piss-poor performance.

    The above referenced so-called “leaders” don’t care about the kids–they only care about the money.

    Their entire strategy is to run the charter out of time and/or money.

    If the charter accepts this it will dramatically increase the chances they will not succeed for fiscal reasons.

    The other problem is you cannot trust the MDUSD’s accounting, THEY CONSTANTLY LIE. So don’t trust them and take it to County as they will be far better to work with as the oversight body.

    I do find it interesting that Mt Diablo has the most money but are still incapable of even running a safe school, “Where Thugs Come First”.

  • Doctor J

    Why the Meadow Homes SIG grant application is doomed to failure: MH is not only 5 plus years in PI, but also for 5 consecutive years in PI failed to meet AYP. That means next year [12/13] it must fire the principal and let go 50% or more of the staff [or transfer them to your schools]. Neither SASS, nor Rose Lock, nor Supt Lawrence has a clue on how NCLB works. As I pointed out yesterday, over a MILLION DOLLARS of signatures appeared on supporting the SIG applications, yet they have no idea of how it works. Here is a primer.
    If Title I schools do not meet AYP for two consecutive years, they are placed in “Choice” School Improvement Status, which means they must develop an improvement plan, provide students the option to transfer to a different school and provide them transportation to get there, and they must use part of their Title I funds for professional development for their teachers and staff. If a school does not make AYP for three consecutive years, they will be in “Supplemental Services” School Improvement Status, which means that in addition to all the “Choice” requirements above, they must also use some of their Title I funds to support students by providing tutoring or after-school programs from a state-approvded provider. If a school fails AYP for four years in a row they enter “Corrective Action” Improvement Status, where they must provide both “Choice” and “Supplemental Services” as well as choose one of the following: Replace responsible staff, Implement a new curriculum, Decrease a school’s management authority; Appoint an external expert to advise school, or restructure the internal organization of the school. [15] Lastly, if a school fails AYP for 5 years or more, they must plan to and implement one of the following:

    Chartering: Closing and reopening as a public charter school.
    Reconstitution: Replacing school staff, including the principal, relevant to the failure in the school.
    Contracting: contracting with an outside entity to operate the school.
    State takeovers: turning the school operations over to the state education agency.
    Any Other major governance restructuring: engaging in another form of major restructuring that makes fundamental reforms.
    [16]

    These “other major governance restructuring” strategies were most popular in restructuring schools in 2007-2008, and allows schools to do a variety of things to improve their schools such as narrow the grade range, re-open as a theme school, close the school, create smaller learning communities, or create their own option that is not provided by the Department of Education. [15]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adequate_Yearly_Progress

  • Doctor J

    Let me speak more clearly: The loss of a $2 Million per year SIG grant for Meadow homes for three years [$6 million] exceeds any net loss, if there is any, by the approval of CVCHS. We have over a million dollars worth of administrators “approving” the MH Sig grant, but yet it is not attached to the agenda for public review ! What is wrong with this picture ? Clearly the District is preventing FULL DISCLOSURE !

  • Doctor J

    Were the Board members secretly provided copies of the SIG applications that were purposefully concealed from the public ? If so, I am damned tired of these Brown Act violations.

  • Wait a minute

    I think a Grand Jury Complaint regarding this and other likely Brown Act violations is in order here.

  • Anon

    How many Brown Act violations can one district incur?

    This is rediculous. Recall Eberhart and Whitmarsh and fire Stevie.

  • Doctor J

    Until the CC County District Attorney starts enforcing the Brown Act, MDUSD will continue to violate it. Corruption at its finest.

  • Sabine

    Of course shortening the school day will hurt students! And here is the interesting thing: It will hurt poor students and low income districts even more. While rich school districts will be able to pass a parcel tax or raise the sale tax to benefit their schools, less fortunate districts and families will be left behind. The gap between rich and poor is widening, and there is no equal education any more in this country.
    That this is not even questioned any more is the real scandal here.