To The Editor:
In response to Mark Diller’s letter published Jan. 9, I appreciated him alerting the public to such an important issue. Approximately 560 school districts in 25 states have moved to a four-day school week, most of which are small and in rural areas.
Missouri currently has 28 schools on a four-day schedule; they reconfigure their schedules to fit the required number of instructional hours into a shorter time span. This can make for a very long day for students who ride the bus in rural areas.
It’s true that school staff like the convenience of a shortened week despite a longer workday. This could serve as a drawing card to attract teachers in high-demand areas such as math, science, special education, and English Language Learners. However, very little research has been conducted on four-day school weeks, so the long-term impact on teacher supply and demand remains to be seen.
Convenience to parents is also cited in support of a four-day school week. While some parents indicate they like being able to schedule doctor appointments, others are unable to pay for child care an additional day per week. In many instances, students are left home alone unsupervised, putting their health and safety at risk.
A third major reason why school districts are moving to a shortened week is to save money. The cost to educate students continues to rise, but funding isn’t rising at the same rate. Nationally, districts spend $12,526 per student while in Missouri it’s $11,558. In the case of Warren County R-III, the district spent an average of $9,716.78 per student last year. Of the Missouri districts that have moved to a four-day week, nearly all are spending less than the state average, and they’re struggling to meet state standards: More than 46 percent have received severe sanctions for poor program quality, student achievement, graduation rates, and the like.
The savings on bus transportation, building utilities, and custodial services are between 0.4 percent and 2.5 percent each year. However, districts don’t save any money on salaries and benefits.
So, what’s the bottom line? We must continue to fully fund our public schools, and we must provide intensive support to those that are struggling. District officials should not be forced into cutting corners that could jeopardize learning. No matter where they live, every single student in our state deserves an educational experience that is second to none. Every. Single. Student.