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.]