Extending the school year is right for preparing kids
There has been an ongoing debate for many years about the length of the school year in America.
The debate is understandable, given that many other nations have more required days in the school year and the higher achievement scores of students in those nations seem to reflect a benefit.
That is undoubtedly why Arizona lawmakers have taken up the issue in this session of the state Legislature. The House has approved legislation that would offer a greater incentive for some schools to increase the length of the school year and the measure is now being considered in the state Senate.
There is already a state program offering a 5 percent premium in school funding for schools that agree to add 20 days to the school year, bringing the number to 200 days. That premium would be increased to 8 percent under the new proposal because few schools are taking up the 5 percent offer.
Originally, it would have applied to all schools in the state willing to accept the offer but was reduced to just schools that get a D or F (failing) rating on the state's progress “report card.” This was done out of fear opening the program to all the some 2,000 schools would “bankrupt” the state.
The legislation is a commentary on the state of education. There seems to be general agreement that more school days would better prepare our students for a competitive world. Not only would that benefit them, but it could help the U.S. economy in general as employers search for qualified job candidates, often unsuccessfully.
Some believe the United States will be unable to remain competitive in the world and too many young people will be relegated to low-paying jobs unless our schools improve preparation of students. A longer school year could be part of the answer – and the need for a longer summer break demanded by a mostly agrarian society of the past is certainly no longer needed.
Yet, despite the potential benefits, our schools apparently need to be bribed to do what is necessary. That is wrong. They should not need a 5 percent premium, yet alone an 8 percent one, to better prepare our children for the future.
Perhaps rather than offering a premium, state lawmakers should simply require a longer school year. It is within their power to do so. But perhaps they fear devoting the necessary state funding to do what is needed.