Why Schools May Shorten Their School Years

Budget cuts are getting so strict that some school districts are shaving days off the school year and making school weeks only four days (instead of five), according to an article in the New York Times.

It’s a child’s dream, and an educator’s nightmare.

The American education system is torn between desperately trying to improve its quality and harsh budget cuts. It’s nearly impossible to find a middle ground. One side will have to cave.

Just about everyone in education agrees that taking kids out of the classroom could not possibly improve education. But, strict budget cuts are forcing administrators to do just that.

Los Angeles cut its summer class program from $18 million in 2010 to $3 million in 2011. On top of that, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and half of the school districts in North Carolina have severely cut or cancelled their summer class programs.

Some rural districts in New Mexico, Idaho and other states will cancel classes on either Fridays or Mondays, shortening the school week to four days come September, in an effort to save more money.

Many districts have added an hour onto each day before trimming days off the year or shortening the school week to four days.

The education climate is just as bad in California, where some 600 of the 1,100 school districts cut five days off the school calendar from 2008-2010. Lawmakers authorized these districts to cut seven more school days if budgets get even tighter.

Essentially, California school children could lose almost three weeks of schooling, leaving educators, politicians and economists wondering how this could possibly improve education.

For nearly 20 years, advocates have been trying to change America’s traditional 180-day school calendar, claiming that most students forget everything they learn over the summer.

The Obama administration heard their arguments, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “Our school day is too short, our school week is too short, our school year is too short,” at his 2009 confirmation hearing, according to the New York Times article.

But, not much has been done about that. Obama did however create a $4 billion effort to overhaul 1,150 failing schools. Each school must choose its own improvement model that includes a new school calendar with more time spent in the classroom.

Some teachers and principals have taken personal interest in this cause. In Brandon, S.D., near Sioux Falls, about 65 teachers and principals plan to keep their schools’ summer programs alive by working them without pay.