In Defense of the 4-day School Week

…and some other budgetary musings.

Nearly one fifth of school districts in the state of Oklahoma go for only four days a week; and it’s actually cutting costs for the school districts that have undertaken this. To Fallin and the other legislators, this is somehow “unacceptable.”

I think however, and partly based on my own public school experience, four days a week is quite sufficient to educate the students.  In fact, it may still be too much.

Of course, this is old news, but it is becoming relevant as the crunch for the budget begins to be felt again.  Really, the same problems repeat themselves, and the same solutions are endlessly offered – all of which attempt not only to just slap on a band-aid, but to attempt to maintain the same expensive and inefficient educational status quo.

Tulsa Public Schools has recently sent out a survey to patrons, asking which things are most important and least important, in the interests of cutting further.  As a consequence, outrage abounds.  Oh no, we’ll have to cut things that really matter!  TPS superintendent Gist is visibly upset during the interviews (at least for newson6) and a whole other lot of dramatics.

But let’s have a look in at things that are on the proposed cutting board:

  • Deeper cuts to central office services
  • Deeper cuts to athletics, cutting sports with low participation
  • consolidate athletic teams across schools
  • Eliminate athletics altogether
  • Deeper cuts to campus security/police
  • Further class size increases
  • Close/consolidate schools
  • Cut days from the school year
  • Deeper cuts for student counseling services
  • Deeper cuts for transportation
  • Reduce custodial services
  • 4 day school weeks with longer days

Of course, to everyone, this is just unacceptable.  I really can’t understand why – some of these things seem extremely sensible, so much so I wonder why they haven’t been done already.

Athletics are supposedly sustained largely on ticket sales for events, but given that most sporting events are sparsely attended, I don’t see how this can sustain full programs.  I dug through budgets for both Tulsa and Moore Public schools looking for some sort of solid numbers on how much is really spent on athletics; nary a word about it.  I think it’s really just lopped into the general fund.

It’s hard to say exactly how much of a burden athletic programs place on a given school district, but I can say this: if any tax money is spent on athletics, it ought to be revoked completely.  This won’t be a popular opinion in the land where high school football reigns supreme, but because athletics have nothing to do with college or real-world preparation, it ought to be considered a frivolous expense.

(If any reader can give me solid numbers on how much athletics cost the taxpayer, please get in touch with me in the comment forum of this blog…)

When putting together a budget, you have to ask: what is necessary?

When you put together a budget for yourself, you must begin with allotting for your needs, and then the frivolities with the excess money.  If there is no excess, you don’t go and cram everything together to make it fit.  You cut the frivolities.

It seems that the school districts ought to be taking a cue from personal budgeting principles and asking themselves the following questions:

Are athletics really necessary?

Are 180 days in a school year necessary?

Is a five day school week necessary?

Fallin and the legislators seem to be widely in agreement that a five day week is necessary. But the reasons are shakey: it all really has to do with the avoidance of “bad PR” and less about quality or substance of instruction.  What does the state care about bad PR anyway?  It’s not like the public school is ever going to be put out of business…

Anyway,  four days is plenty enough.  Districts that have gone to a four day week have seen solid, tangible savings because of it.  Cited in the channel four article of a month ago, the Newcastle district has saved in transportation costs and substitute teacher pay, because they go one less day a week.  This, certainly, gives them room to ensure teachers can be paid and programs, no matter how frivolous, can continue to operate.  Still, that’s “unacceptable.” Bad PR, you know.

From my own personal experience, the five day a week, 180 day school year is just excessive.  Why?  Busywork.  Wheeling in the TV cart to watch movies.  Days with substitute teachers where we did nothing.  And so on.  I have a feeling that this experience is pretty universal, among my peers.

I would be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy the movie days or the blow off subbed classes, but honestly, I would have rather been at home, given the option – saving the district the money of transporting me there and the utilities of keeping us there.

Remember, the goal seems to be college preparation: seldom does a given college class meet for more than a couple days in a week.  It also takes only a semester to teach a subject, too.

Your comments are appreciated.

 

 

 

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Is it our responsibility to fund the arts?

We ask three things of government: the protection of our rights to life, liberty and property.  And while, granted, it is an ancient tradition that the state (i.e., the monarch, church, etc.) served as patron to the arts that would otherwise go un-patronized, is it really necessary these days?

I don’t think so.  You can say that it’s a drop in the bucket, in the context of the entire federal budget – but aren’t the contents of a bucket just a lot of tiny drops?  If you eliminate one, you can eliminate others.  Especially when the results of these “investments” is not really tangible to the everyday American, we know it’s time to cut this waste.

Besides, 971 million – the proposed amount to be cut – is no small sum.

The assumption is that these things (arts, humanities, museums and libraries, and public broadcasting) could not exist without government funding.  I doubt that, but for argument’s sake, let’s say this is so: when the funding dies, so do these things.  What we should be asking, in such a case, is why can these things not subsist on their own?  If they are really so good, so noble, so useful – couldn’t the market support these things on their own?

To a large extent, the market couldn’t, and justifiably shouldn’t.   These things are old fashioned, inefficient.

In an NPR story on this subject, CPB President and CEO Patricia Harrison is quoted as saying that public media is “one of America’s best investments” and costs each citizen only $1.35 per year.  If this were really the case, if public broadcasting was really as great as she says, then it would be supported by the market already, without need for government funding.  Of course, what she says is hogwash – public broadcasting is becoming increasingly irrelevant (if it ever was relevant in the first place, at least compared to the normal broadcasting format) as it’s being replaced with internet (free) news.  It is really like the state paying for the printing of a newspaper that no one reads anymore – because it’s a “good investment.”

The sob stories continue.  From the Washington Post:

The loss of NEA funding would cripple Vermont’s Poetry Out Loud competition, a statewide poetry recitation program that involves 5,500 students, about 25 percent of Vermont high-schoolers. The finals are broadcast on public television, said Alex Aldrich, executive director of the Vermont Arts Council, and the winner goes on to the national competition.

Heaven spare us from having to watch – or pay for – endless hours of bad, amateurish, free-rhyme, high school poetry!

Also from the Washington Post:

“Congress must look out for the millions of American families that can’t always travel to big cities to visit a museum when they want to learn about art and history.”

The internet has a lot of information about art and history, you know.

From a Quartz story, comparing this to when Australia slashed cultural funding:

In reality, these kinds of cuts have more to do with ideology than saving money. Abbott’s attacks were an example of how conservatives often target government-run arts programs on the suspicion that the creative sector is really a giant, publicly funded, left-wing racket.

Well… yeah?

From that same story:

Research by the Australia Council found that more Australians go to art galleries each year than to Australian Football League matches, the most popular sporting code in the country.

In that case, it shouldn’t be an issue – art galleries would be able to support themselves if they are really so popular, no?

I am almost in complete support of the intentions of Trump’s new budget.  It is the first attempt at a conservative budget I have seen in my lifetime – though, the military expenditure is still most definitely excessive.

Opposing Trump without loosing legitimacy

Or, how to oppose Trump with “grace.”

Of course, my readers (and anyone that happened to be around me long enough for a conversation) knew that I opposed Trump’s policies as soon as he announced his candidacy.  I may have hopped on a few opinion bandwagons; but I did so because I also opposed the alternative, which was merely another shade (granted, less amusing) of the same problem: using government power to enforce particular political agendas and purposes.

Now that he’s president, it would be very easy for me to hop on these smug, self-righteous, pop culture bandwagons in opposition to his policies.  Everyone else is doing it.  These articles would practically write themselves.

But I don’t do that.  Even though I do oppose some of Trump’s measures, I haven’t been vocal in my opposition.  Why?  I hesitate because I don’t want to be lopped in with the aforementioned bandwagons.

These bandwagons have no substance, no sustaining force other than the talking points devised by a bitter media, and led by the useless: politicians, celebrities, other media figures, etc.  Led by people whose only qualification is being famous.   A very dismal thing, to take your political points from someone like this.

This bandwagon is becoming so large, and so constant, it now seems to be nothing more than background static.  Always there, a little annoying, but easily ignored.  Which raises a concern: when there is some actual serious violation of the mandate, some serious dishonesty, who will listen to the outrage?  No one in mainstream, everyday America, because the “outrage” of these bandwagons is already wearing out it’s welcome.

I have said that if Donald Trump liberates North Korea, the media here will find a way to spin it to criticize Trump and glorify the (hopefully disposed) Kim Jong Un.  That is the moment that they will loose their last shred of credibility.

Because it’s not that they oppose the things (they never said anything when the last president “banned” people) but it’s simply because they oppose the man, and thus will say anything that will frame him in a bad light, no matter how good the action is on Trump’s part.  He could hand a new puppy to every child in the World and it wouldn’t matter.