Four-day school week is a consequence of unwillingness to fund public schools (Capitol Updates)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister

Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has taken a quick, strong stand against a 4-day school week that is being considered by some school districts. The legislature passed a bill a few years ago to allow for longer, fewer days, mainly to make it easier for schools to make up “bad weather” days toward the end of the school year. That probably wasn’t a great idea at the time, but at least you could understand the rationale. It’s pretty hard to keep students on task for makeup days at the end of the year anyway. But now some schools are considering going to a 4-day week as a recruitment tool for teachers and to save money on such things as transportation and utilities.

This just seems to be another unanticipated consequence of our state’s unwillingness to responsibly fund our public schools. Since the great recession we have cut school funding more than any other state despite that part of that time included an oil boom with prices over $100 per barrel. At the same time we cut taxes, including a huge gift to the oil and gas industry with a cut from 7 percent to 2 percent in the gross production tax. So now that teachers are voting with their feet and abandoning Oklahoma classrooms, either for teaching jobs in other states or jobs outside their chosen profession, schools are scrounging for ways to make a poor-paying teaching job more attractive and to pinch pennies on the gasoline and utility bills.

I don’t think you have to be an education expert to recognize that cutting school days by 20 percent and adding that 20 percent on to the days you have left is a bad idea. Possibly really good or attentive students can focus that much longer each day, but many if not most will not. At least some of the extra time will likely be wasted. And the kids who are already squirming through the current school day will be that much more disruptive. What happens when a kid is sick or absent? If she misses two days it’s half the week. And everyone has bad days, students and teachers. Fewer days makes those “off” days a bigger loss. And finally, what are kids supposed to do with a 3-day weekend every week? I’m pretty sure they won’t be spending all that free time doing homework.

Oklahoma already has among the fewer required school days amongst the states. Time on task is a pretty important part of getting anything done. It’s been recognized for years that we in Oklahoma need to increase, not decrease school days. That effort has been held back because of cost. Superintendent Hofmeister proposed last year that a teacher pay increase be tied to a longer school year. No wonder she was quick to call foul on decreasing school days.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

9 thoughts on “Four-day school week is a consequence of unwillingness to fund public schools (Capitol Updates)

  1. We do not need to decrease school days to four days a week. That idea is not a good one for our students. We need to FUND education and STOP GIVING such large tax breaks to the OIL and GAS companies!!!!!
    EDUCATION IS OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE!

  2. This controversy detracts from the real issues facing our schools – decreasing classroom size, funding for poorer schools, etc. What about the long summer break which only hurt kids in the long run, causing schools to waste the first nine weeks of each year refreshing on the previous year? There are many archaic practices associated with our school years. Haggling over a four day week is a distraction.

  3. I think everyone wants to improve education in our state. The issue seems to be how to pay for it. It is true that the oil and gas companies have been given way to many “tax credits and gifts”. Time for them to pay their taxes like the rest of us. Of course, the argument then becomes, “well the oil and gas companies bring in good jobs”. Guess what! They aren’t going anywhere. The oil and gas is Here. I for one would be willing to pay more at the pump if I knew we might not be fiftieth in education. The oil and gas companies reap huge profits from our natural resources but steal our kids and grand kids education. Enough already! The legislature also could stop stealing from the lottery money which was also supposed to help improve education. And here’s another thought. Let’s legalize and bring in tax revenue from Medical Marijuana and Industrial Hemp. Maybe then we can stop the mass exodus of teachers from our state.

  4. I’m going to guess Christine didn’t read the article. It’s all tied together!

    And no, Paul, everyone does not want to improve education or it would happen. People that support Mary Fallin would stop voting against making Oklahoma education better. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of lip service but the proof is in the pudding (voting). On the oil companies, lottery and marijuana… Yes, yes and yes!

  5. don’t be so quick to bash energy companies, a most recent donation of $80,000 to an education initiative…not to mention the millions of dollars that energy company employees pour into the state
    system via property tax dollars!

  6. $80,000… $80K… Eighty thousand dollars…? I just want to make sure that wasn’t a typo. Please tell me you aren’t serious, Teri. That amount would be what’s defined as a pittance. What a joke. They make HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS of dollars and you think 80k means something? Then it seems you didn’t read the article either since you bring up taxes. C’mon.

  7. jojo………read my words AGAIN, because what i wrote was MOST RECENT DONATION, $80,000, that implies there are many more before that, and there WILL BE many more after that! my goodness, why not just say thank you for $80,000? don’t you appreciate that? tsk tsk…..

  8. I currently teach school and I actually think there are some ways a four day or 4.5 day school week could be a very good thing if we could make accommodations for full time working households. When Iwas in high school there was an incentive program where students could get out half days on Fridays if they had good grades and it was awesome. This kind of schedule actually allows for students to have the opportunity for 1:1 time or to make up assignments if absent. Also with most teachers currently more in the 50-60 week range, I feel this would provide much better family-life balance. As a parent, I would jump at the chance for families to possibly have more family time. This could be a very positive thing.

  9. I WORRY FOR SINGLE PARENT HOUSEHOLDS OR IN HOUSES WHERE BOTH PARENTS WORK AS MANY HOURS THEY CAN EACH WEEK TO STAY FINANCIALLY AFLOAT. MANY YOUNGER KIDS WILL BE FORCED INTO MAKESHIFT DAYCARE ONE DAY A WEEK WITH HUNDREDS OF OTHER KIDS OF DIFFERING AGES … OR THE PARENT MUST MISS HOURS OF WORK .. OR WORST OF ALL THE KIDS ARE HOME ALONE A FULL DAY EACH WEEK. IT SEEMS THE ADDITIONAL COST TO PARENTS BY CLOSING SCHOOL ON FRIDAY WILL EXCEED ANY SAVINGS TO THE SCHOOL. NEWCASTLE SCHOOLS ARE CONSIDERING THIS FOR NEXT YEAR AND WILL HAVE MEETING WITH PARENTS MONDAY NIGHT, 1-31-16 AT 6PM. IT WAS ARGUED BY ADVOCATES FOR THE 4 DAY WEEK THAT COLORADO HAS HIGHER ACT SCORES THAN OKLAHOMA AND SINCE COLORADO HAS MORE 4 DAY A WEEK SCHOOLS, THE EXTRA DAY OFF MUST HELP EDUCATION. THAT IS AS ILLOGICAL AS SAYING COLORADO’S LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA HELPS TEST SCORES. BY THE WAY, IN COLORADO, THE SCHOOLS THAT SWITCHED ARE MOSTLY SMALLER, RURAL SCHOOLS WITH LONG BUS ROUTES. SINCE NEWCASTLE SCHOOLS DO NOT ALLOW PARENTS TO SPEAK AT REGULAR BOARD MEETINGS WITHOUT GETTING SUPERINTENDENT’S PERMISSION 3 DAYS BEFORE A MEETING, THE NEWCASTLE PACER HAS A COMMUNITY SURVEY FOR PARENTS AND CITIZENS TO WEIGH IN. CALL 387-5277 OR SEE NEWSLINE9.COM FOR MORE DETAILS.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.