4 Day School Week

This is not the post I intended to present next; I wanted to post on how we can productively use surveillance cameras in classrooms. However, I am waiting to hear back from a few sources so that my information is correct and true. In the interim, I want to address the new panic that is flooding the FaceBook pages of my friends: SCHOOL SCHEDULING CHANGES.

INFORMATION:
Here is one headline-

Budget writers could cut 10 school days
On Thursday The South Carolina state of House’s top budget writer said that cutting 10 days out of South Carolina’s school year could save $210 million and help with a $800 million deficit.

And here is the other-
GREENVILLE, S.C. — Reading, writing and arithmetic are basic skills of education, but a money-saving measure proposed by South Carolina lawmakers could cut into the time that students have to learn them. A bill introduced at the legislature this session would cut the school week from five days to four.

South Carolina is NOT the only state considering this. Several other districts/states either have or are considering the same measures:
California
Georgia

Kentucky
Oregon

And that’s just what I found on the 1st page of a Google Search for Reduced School Day.

Concern One:
Teachers understand the 1st proposal will reduce their paychecks by 3%.

INFORMATION:
This follows several years of similar reductions to the effect of an over-all decrease in teacher pay of about 20% in the past 5 years. And that information comes from my personal paycheck. In the 2006-2007 school year, with 10 years of experience, a Masters Degree in Education, and having teaching certificates to cover middle grades math, social studies, & language arts, as well as English grades 7-12, I earned  nearly $53K a year. In the 2011-2012 school year, as a full-time teacher my annual salary (with this cut) would be just over $42K.

Want to know what teachers really get paid? Google Teacher Pay Scale <your school district’s name> (For example: Teacher Pay Scale Dallas ISD). It’s public information. There are sites that offer teacher pay scale by state, but those aren’t accurate as each district pays differently.

Concern Two:
Parents realize the 2nd option will impact their pocketbooks. Here’s a quote from a  FaceBook page when I posted a link to the proposed 4-day school week:

Parent Concern over 4-day School Week

This parent is not alone in concern over daycare cost. Here is another quote pulled from a news article on the 4-day school week idea in Georgia:

Click image for link to news story

INFORMATION:
Most schools in the United States have school years that are 175-180 days long. Let’s do the math based on a 180-day school year, mostly because that’s what I’m used to, and it divides nicely.
-> It’s approximately 36 weeks.
They may not shorten the weeks that are already short, such as Thanksgiving Break, or the weeks of MLK’s holiday, President’s Day, Memorial Day, or Labor Day. If the students were already only attending school for 4 days that week, nothing would change. In my district, that makes 5 weeks that would not be reduced.
->We are now talking about 31 weeks, which means 31 days that would be taken off the calendar.
-> Disregard the 10 days students are going to lose either way (Something I have yet to encounter is the realization that shortening the school year by 10 days will also involve a cost to the parent. Two weeks worth of daycare/babysitting fees, actually.)
->We are now looking at 21 more days that parents will need to pay for some kind of childcare/babysitting services for students in kindergarten to about 6th grade (5-11 year-olds). I am assuming parents of children under 5 are already paying daycares/sitters and children 12 & up will be capable of staying home alone.

INFORMATION: The average daycare charges $30 a day for drop-in type services; I placed a poll on FaceBook and here is the graph correlating to the responses I received:

Across 4 states, the average "drop-in rate" is $30 per child per day

Multiply $30 by 21 days, and the parent of one child will realize an expense of $630 more than the cost of daycare/babysitters needed when the entire school year is cut by 10 days.

You read that correctly: $630, as an added expense, per child.

I want to say, “That’s it! That’s actually very little in the grand scheme of things!” But I must take into account large families. The woman quoted above, Letitica, said she has 6 children and would be looking at a  weekly expense of $180 for her 6 children to be on a 4-day school week. I wonder what she does during regular school breaks? Over the summer?

INFORMATION:
The most common requirement for length of school day is  to have 300-360 minutes (5- 6 hours) of instruction, not including time for class changes or lunch, though it varies state to state.

To make up the missed days if the states shorten the school year by ten days the schools systems- WAIT! There is NO make up time. The American School Student loses at least 3,000 minutes of school (300 minutes X 10 days) time.

How do we fare in comparison to European and Asian schools?

Germany, Iran, and  Australia require 200 days of school. Even Kenya, in Africa attends 3 more weeks, and in Mexico it is not uncommon for children to attend half a day on Saturdays as part of their 200 days. So cutting the school calendar by 10 days puts us even further behind world competitors, but it does save a state $210 MILLION dollars through teacher salary reductions and fewer days to provide electricity to schools, run buses, or feed children.

INFORMATION:
By reducing the school week to 4-days, the school systems can spread out the missed 300-360 minutes over a 4 day period, adding about 75-90 minutes to each day, considering time to change classes.

Midlothian Independent Schools in Midlothian, TX rings its first period bell in middle school at 8:35, though children are admitted as early as 7:20, and more than half the student body is present by 8:am due to parents needing to be at work by 8:00 or 9:00 themselves. By adding 60 minutes to the front of the school day, these students are no longer merely herded into the cafeteria or gymnasium, but are making academic progress soon after arriving.

Elementary schools in Bartow County, GA, release students at 2:30, sending daycare busses scurrying across the county picking up children and charging parents $10-$15 a day for their services. Since elementary schools often begin much earlier than middle and high schools, there may not be a need to add much time to the front of their day, though by adding 75 minutes to the end of the day, parents might not need the day care services, further lowering the overall cost of daycare.

On the 4-day week, teachers salaries are maintained, student realize NO LOST TIME and schools still save on the cost of heating/cooling buildings, save on the cost of fuel for busses, save on the cost of purchasing and preparing food for students; overall the State Department of Education possibly saves as much as $50o MILLION dollars.

Reduced  Year by 10 Days 4-Day School Week
Tax Money Saved $210 million $500 million
Teachers’ Salaries cut by 3% no change
Academic Time cut by 50 hours no change
Electricity costs reduced by 3% reduced by 10%
Fuel costs for busses reduced by 3% reduced by 10%
Food Services costs reduced by 3% reduced by 10%

Take a step beyond the financial picture and think about the Carbon Footprint impact of reducing the school week to 4 days. How many Styrofoam trays won’t be thrown into landfills? How much diesel exhaust won’t be emitted into the Ozone? How much energy won’t be used to heat up cold classes after HVAC systems have been shut down for the night.

In comparing a personal, parental cost of $630 per child to a possible savings of $500,000,000 in tax revenue, while also reducing the Carbon Footprint, and taking a large step towards becoming “green,” the general population owes itself the consideration of a 4-day school week.

Potential Solutions:

ONE: If neither reducing the school year by 10 days nor by resorting to a 4-day week appeals to you, there is another option: cut competitive sports programs from the educational budget. Allow these programs to be picked up by local recreation departments.  The United States is one of the only countries in the entire world to maintain a competitive sports program at middle school, junior high, and high school levels.  Europe, Asia, Central America, and Canada leave sports to the local communities and sports clubs. Cobb County, GA, has already done this at the middle school levels. Bartow County Schools once made it policy to only allow 7th & 8th graders on football and basketball teams, encouraging 6th graders to play for the recreational department or the local YMCA.  It is worth discussing the fact that schools are much quicker to cut arts and music rather than cut football or basketball.

I am guessing the majority of people will respond with a MYTH like this:
Why does this need to come out of the educational funding? How is it that the kids playing for the rec leagues, local YMCAs, sports clubs, and churches aren’t still going to learn life lessons about being team players? Are college talent scouts not capable of going to see a recreational division game just as easily? The Little League World Series is a big deal. The Dizzy Dean division accepts players up to 19 years of age.

INFORMATION: The money made by athletics stays in athletics. Schools do not take money earned at the Friday night football game and use it to purchase ink for the language arts teachers. Ask your school’s principal or athletic director what the monies raised at games goes towards. Athletic directors, head coaches, assistant coaches all have stipends added to their salaries for the extra time they put in for sports.

North East High School football stadium: "The final Board Approved Budget for the project was established at $33,300,000.00 based on the construction costs trends in the San Antonio area." Click image for a link to their budget.

What about all the facilities schools have built around their sports programs? The school systems can rent out the gymnasiums and stadiums for use by recreational teams. Teachers would no longer be pressured to pass players whose “only ticket to college and a better life” is through playing sports. These children are still playing sports, just not at the expense of the school system. Many recreational leagues affiliate with local schools, and the teams can be formed that way deliberately if this is to become a viable option.

TWO: Allow the PTA to arrange “babysitting pools” the way many of them arrange carpools. Perhaps a group of 4 families can rotate taking the  off from work, allowing the children to play together. Teachers, who are also now not working on that day might take part in this “pool.”

THREE: Encourage local colleges, technical schools, and universities to make childcare part of its program. Many of these schools already have tutoring labs where education majors get practice teaching while providing free services to their peers or local students. In a symbiotic relationship between elementary schools and universities, college students can fill the gap created by a 4-day school week. High schools might work to pair older teens with parents in need of sitters.

FOUR: Under the current tax system it would be possible, at the state level, to offer tax breaks to businesses that make provisions to allow employees flexible schedules or that made available some system that worked with parents of elementary children rather than penalizing them.

FIVE: Work within the communities/churches to connect neighbors. There are stay-at-home moms, retirees (the largest generation ever conceived is in the process of retiring right now), and high school teenagers who can be organized into a rotating pool of babysitters. No one wants to be obligated every week, but if it only falls to be your turn the second week of each month, you might be more likely to volunteer or to accept the obligation for low pay.

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2 Responses to 4 Day School Week

  1. Kerry Hanning says:

    “ONE: If neither reducing the school year by 10 days nor by resorting to a 4-day week appeals to you, there is another option: cut competitive sports programs from the educational budget. Allow these programs to be picked up by local recreation departments.”

    Amen. I wrote a letter to a local radio station about this last year, and they read it on air. I included numbers – you can go to any school website and see the number of people who are coaching (for example, at Mauldin High School, there are 11 coaches listed for Varsity football alone). I looked up the salary schedule for athletics: http://www.greenville.k12.sc.us/gcsd/depts/admin/stats/1011/athl.pdf
    Even if each of these coaches were paid at the lowest tier (which they aren’t – I know how long most of them have been coaching), Mauldin High School pays a minimum of $55,000 a year – much more likely to be close to $110,000 a year – ONLY on salaries to run a program that affects only a finite number of males. This doesn’t even take into consideration other program costs, a JV Team, a C-Team, athletic directors, and trainers.

    The radio host (who is a raging tea party-er and therefore radically different from me politically) agreed with me. The public HATED my letter. Caller after caller dialed in to support football – which was never being attacked in the first place – and its place in school. These people failed to realize that football was an example. The only arguments that I ever really heard? 1) Athletics puts money back into the schools and 2) Athletics motivate the kids who aren’t motivated otherwise.

    Thanks for arguing with number one. For number two, if we have students who can’t be motivated within the classroom, then to me this is just more proof of where we need to be dedicating time, resources, etc.

    Okay. Then I have another problem that is particular to football in schools, and that has to do with Title IX. Where’s the equality here? Do we even care? I’d love to see you do an analysis on Title IX, its benefits and harms, and whether it still has a place in schools today. An idea for the future!

  2. 80price says:

    Kerry,
    I continue to be amazed at the number of parents who see sports as fundamental to running a school system. Recently when I broached this subject with a group of parents one mother commented, “Oh no! I’m tired of spending $200 a year having my son play for the rec leagues! I’ll be glad when he gets to middle school.” Thing is, it costs the middle school a great deal more than $200 a year to fund baseball, soccer, basketball, football, track, cross-country, tennis, volleyball, cheerleading, lacrosse, wrestling, softball…what am I leaving out? There are more options available as an extra-curricular sport than there are for electives during the school day (particularly at the middle school level). Electives that would provide the backbone of a student’s potential career as an adult. Yes, sports are fun, but they are ultimately games. By failing to move games into the recreation (AKA game) department’s budget and allowing schools to focus on preparing our youth to be contributing members of society we fail in establishing the true purpose of school which the Ancient Greeks defined as “skholē: leisure spent in the pursuit of knowledge”. KNOWLEDGE. And as crazy as the Greeks were for sports, there was a clear separation of school and games.

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