The recession has hit all aspects of our society hard. School districts across America are struggling with the idea of filling budget shortfalls, for a lack of federal funding. In fact, “Education Week” recently published a story that claims U. S. Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, has no answer for cutting teacher jobs. Suffice to say, if our governmental officials have no answers, how can we expect individual school districts, to know what to do? I say, we can. The answer lies in thinking outside of the box. The answer lies in looking to school districts that have taken their own steps to curing their budget pitfalls.
Take for example, Peach County schools in Georgia. They are a part of approximately 120 school districts that partake in 4-day school weeks. The Peach County schools of Georgia took to this trend, last year, to fill a more than 1 million dollar budget gap. They do not have school on Mondays. Instead, their weeks begin on Tuesday and end on Saturday. What did they avoid by taking this seemingly drastic measure? Peach County schools were able to avoid laying off 39 teachers, according to the Associated Press, before school began, last year.
Now, I know what some die hard education fanatics are saying, “We cannot do that! Test scores will drop! Our kids will get into trouble,” and dozens of other fire- hosed comments. Guess what happened in Georgia? Test scores went up. So did attendance; for both students and teachers. (For those of you outside of education, school districts only allow a certain number of absences a school year. From these allowed absences, school districts pay for substitute teacher; if a teacher runs out of days, they must pay- out of their salary- the amount that they make per day.) This means that, Georgia schools increased productivity and saved money for teachers and districts.
Moreover, the community and school districts stepped- up and did what many districts argue for; they worked together. When parents cannot care for their children on Mondays- due to work or health reasons- students are taken to a program governed by local churches, Boys’ and Girls’ programs and daycares in the area. All of the aforementioned programs offer, free or low cost care, tutoring and supports to ensure that the children have a positive place to be, when school is not in session.
Caution should not go to the wind, just yet. There isn’t a lot of scientific research about the effects of 4-day school weeks. Researchers assert that there is no negative effect on academics. Mostly all districts have reported that students are more focused, positive and active in their education. School days would be longer. But the advantages may outweigh the costs.
No one option will make everyone happy. There will be parents that argue that students are not getting the necessary class time- though if the school week begins at 7am and ends at 5pm, which is the same 40 hour school week as a 5- day schedule. Other parents may not agree that their children will stay out of trouble. I say, parents, step up! Make sure that your children are cared for. School should never be looked at as a baby-sitting service or an alternative to you keeping your children active.
Associated Press. “N.C.’s Perdue, Obama Official Push for School Funds.” Retrieved on June 06, 2010 from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/06/04/358816ncxgrstatebudget_ap.html
Associated Press. “4- Day School Weeks Gain Popularity Across U. S.” Retrieved on June 06, 2010 from http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2010/06/04/358869usfourdayschoolweek_ap.html