From the Everett Herald comes a story about superintendents around the state coming together in agreement about having fewer school days for all districts rather than the Governor's idea of getting rid of levy equalization which favors districts able to pass levies versus those that can't.
The superintendents are saying that while it may end up being detrimental to students in the long run, they want the cuts to be equal across the state and feel this may stop the steady downward trend of school budgets.
Washington is not the first to consider this path. California, for example, dropped from 180 days to 175 days in 2009, then decided earlier this year to let financially challenged districts teach as few as 168 days. Other states, such as Oregon, allowed districts to go to a four-day school week. Students wind up with the same number of hours of instruction, but districts save money by closing campuses an additional day each week.
The story doesn't explain it but I'm supposing they add the time lost by the cut days into the remaining days. So you get the same amount of time but in fewer days with school doors open.
Gov. Chris Gregoire, in her outline of ideas for erasing the shortfall, listed $365 million in cuts to elementary and secondary education. She didn't include a shorter school year, which could save $125 million, but did endorse slashing $150 million in levy equalization payments to property-poor school districts.
Superintendents oppose her approach because it doesn't hit districts equally. Those in wealthier urban areas will be unscathed as they don't receive a subsidy. A shorter school year, on the other hand, would affect each of the state's 295 school districts.
There are obstacles. Changing the law prescribing a 180-day school year is necessary. It also may run afoul of the state constitution's requirement to ensure every student in Washington receives a 'basic education.
The constitution doesn't define what is the minimum number of days for a basic education, but it's generally believed that cutting five days could trigger a legal challenge to answer that question.
There is opposition from Gregoire, Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and the Washington Education Association, the statewide teachers union.
This could end up being quite the fight and for good reasons on all sides. I personally would oppose this idea for two reasons.
One, we need to draw a line somewhere. Kids need to be in school. That extra week leaves the districts' pockets and hits parents' pockets because those kids have to be somewhere. The districts may end up with less savings anyway due to snow days that will have to be made up. What then?
Two, it may be time for some hard choices in smaller districts that have trouble passing levies. Some of the problem is that there are people not voting for levies because they favor Tea Party politics. That cannot be the problem for districts who don't have that issue. While Seattle is indeed a wealthier district, ALL our citizens end up paying for our levies, not just the wealthy. It might be time for districts to be responsible for their own costs.