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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