Education official: Consider reducing 180-day school year

Wrapping up a morning of hearings on the state’s 2011 budget and the monster cuts that could come with it, Scott Austensen, the deputy state school superintendent for finance, touched not one, but two third-rails of Georgia politics.

First, he told lawmakers at the Capitol, the state needs to look at reducing the 180-days of instruction now required for K-12 students. Secondly, lottery money could be used to offset some technology expenditures in public schools – something lawmakers haven’t approved in years.

Afterwards, in a scrum with reporters, Austensen said that, depending on the severity of cuts to come, budget writers need to look beyond the teacher-training days now used for mandatory time off:

“Thus far, the six-day furloughs have come out of professional development days because – by law – even though the governor [declared] the furlough days, he didn’t change the requirement of 180 days or the equivalent…

“We’re suggesting looking at how deep those cuts may be. If it’s another six days, well, maybe that’s professional development. But if it’s going to be more than six days, we need to look at giving school systems the ability and flexibility to reduce some of those 180 days.”

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250 comments Add your comment

Ticked Off

February 23rd, 2010
1:07 pm

OK, let me get this straight……you’re talking about reducing the days that the kids in the APS have to attend classes……does that not seem asinine to anyone?

Realist

February 23rd, 2010
1:12 pm

Ticked Off, there is nothing magical about a 180 day school year. 170-175 days in school, along with exteningd the day just a bit, and students get almost the same amount of instructional time and it saves millions of dollars. These are the tough decisions that have to be made at the state level in a bad economy… we can’t just print money and call it a stimulus like Washington can.

Red

February 23rd, 2010
1:34 pm

Dropping the amount of days and adding one more hour (or more) per day makes sense. It cuts down on utility bills for schools, gas and maintenance for buses, reduces traffic, and numerous other budget benefits. With budgets breaking systems will either have to raise taxes or come up with VERY innovative methods of cutting the budget.

woodshed guy

February 23rd, 2010
1:36 pm

Many school class room and library computers sit idle or are used for game playing and bored entertainment. Replacing them with newer updated equipment is a large dollar grabber. Technology is important but some of the stuff, I think, is just money down the drain. A keen eye and some practical sense can save a lot by cutting back a little on tech and athletics. I can already hear the screams starting. Holy cows they be.

Mr. Grumpy

February 23rd, 2010
1:40 pm

The only school systems that could conceivably cut the number of class days for student instruction are in those states that routinely show above average educational achievement. They can afford to cut the number of school days. Georgia, however, rountinely falls near the bottom of states in terms of achievement levels. We get all excited and break out the champaign bottles when state education officials release annual figures showing we beat Mississippi or Louisiana on some achievement measure. Well, whoopie doo !!!! We can ill-afford to reduce the number of instruction days for kids who are barely literate in the English language. Everybody claims they want quality education for our kids, but then have hissie fits when someone suggests putting more, not less resources to the task. Every politician is so afraid of the “T” word, they don’t dare even discuss it. Georgia will continue to float at or near the bottom of educational achievement until and unless Georgians are willing to put up more cash to create the kind of educational system needed to jetison our ill-prepared kids into a business or commercial future in which they now stand virtually no chance of succeeding. Do you want to know why major companies don’t bring their business or manufacturing assets to Georgia? It’s foolishly simple. Because they’d lose employees unwilling to subject their children to a substandard education and woukld not have an educated work force from which to draw good employees.

harrison

February 23rd, 2010
1:42 pm

The LAST thing this state needs to do is cut education. These furlough days are absolutely horrible, and cutting instruction days will just further highlight the abysmal education system that we have here in Georgia. It does not matter if they add time to the instruction day, the rest of the country will perceive it as Georgia doing another stupid thing educationally. You hear politicians saying all the time that low taxes will attract businesses, but NO business wants to come to a state with an uneducated workforce and they certainly don’t want to put their own children into that system.

I know we are in a bind right now and need to take some drastic measures, but cutting our children’s future is not the solution and will only exacerbate the problem in the long term.

As far as the lottery monies go, the HOPE scholarship has to change. There should be an income cap and more stringent standards. Too many of these so called scholars get to college and lose the HOPE because they are ill prepared. Put that money into the schools and do some real good.

Mid Ga Retiree

February 23rd, 2010
1:43 pm

When my children were in school (which hasn’t been that long ago), I personally knew of several days during the 180-day school year when it made absolutely no sense whatsoever for them to be in school. A couple of my children were even in AP classes. I think that extending the school day by 15-30 minutes and reducing school to a four-day week makes real good sense. It’s at least worth serious study.

Realist

February 23rd, 2010
1:46 pm

Mr. Grumpy, what matters isn’t DAYS in class, it is TIME in class. If we have 6 hour school days and cut 10, that is 60 hours, or 3600 minutes. Increase the school day by just 20 minutes for the 170 days left, and that is 3400 minutes. So, by reducing the school year by 10 days and saving MILLIONS of dollars, we have reduced instructional time by less than 4 hours, and I don’t think anyone can argue that 4 hours will make or break any child’s education.

Clem

February 23rd, 2010
1:48 pm

You can cut school days and add extra hours to the school day to make up the difference; however, you are not improving education. Young kids, especially, can only absorb so much instruction in a day.

Teacher

February 23rd, 2010
1:57 pm

I think the kids should go year round. This Country is so far behind others it’s sad.

Mike

February 23rd, 2010
1:58 pm

We already have the dumbest kids in the civilized world and b/c of wasteful governmental spending, we are not going to have even dumber kids.

Latitica

February 23rd, 2010
1:59 pm

I got my 6 kids in school now and can’t afford no daycare. These kids needs to be in school more!

Jaye

February 23rd, 2010
1:59 pm

Maybe a few lobbyists can forgo some dinners with Speaker Ralston and put that money toward keeping our schools open 180 days. Does this idea sound any sillier or more inane than anything else our state lawmakers have done so far this year?

Cammi317

February 23rd, 2010
2:00 pm

The number of school days has NOTHING to do with how well the students perform. They could go year round and still not make any inroads. Student performance is not going to change in this state unless (1) they drop the CRCT and start teaching to learn and not teaching to test; (2) They find a curriculum that works and stick with it instead of changing mandates every other year and (3) parents become more active in their child(s) education.

How low can you go?

February 23rd, 2010
2:02 pm

We’re heading straight for 50th in education. Mississippi and South Carolina are hoping so at least.

just a thought

February 23rd, 2010
2:02 pm

If the parents got mre involved the education of these kids then maybe you wouldn’t oppose the adding time in the day to cut calendar days. There have been many complaints about Georgia’s educational woes, but what are the parents doing. So if the school days are cut then that means instead of clubbing all night, leaving them with someone else, talking on the phone, etc. the parents should step up to the plate and help. The kids are yours not the teachers anyway. Study with them at home. WE want the homework to be done before they leave school and have a hissy fit if its not. Sure we all work and most of us long hours, but placing the balme on Georgia’s educational system is not fair. GET INVOLVED!!

brad

February 23rd, 2010
2:03 pm

woodshed….the state of Georgia gives athletic departments ZERO dollars in the state of Georgia. No money for equipment, transportation…nada. Coaches supplements are paid for by the county BOE’s. Everybody always points to “athletics” when they start talking about the state saving money. You can’t save what you don’t spend.

The Problem

February 23rd, 2010
2:03 pm

You can’t extend the time. Talk to any teacher – the kids who they have at the end of the day are completely worn out. Imagine adding more hours to the school day. Even the brains of adults cut off at some point during the day. How many of you are worthless after some point in the day? Kids are the same way.

Countries around the world go to school for MORE days, but less hours each day. They might be in school for 4 or 5 hours a day, but would go for maybe 220-230 days a year. It keeps the school day easy and manageable, and students can remain fresh and alert during their short time at school.

better idea

February 23rd, 2010
2:04 pm

Why don’t you just stop embezzling the states money and then we wouldnt have this problem. GEORGIA POLITICS is so corrupt and we all know it.

DK

February 23rd, 2010
2:04 pm

To those decrying this proposal, are you ready to pay higher taxes? This is the problem that governments face today. The same people who scream no more tax increases whine when governments cut services. It is easy to tell others to do more with less when they’re not the ones responsible for providing the services, but reality makes that concept a bit harder. Sales and income tax collections are down so the government is essentially doing more with less now. Platitudes may sound nice, but people don’t come to work without being paid and overheads must be serviced. If you don’t want to see schedules adjusted to account for the current economic realities, start championing a tax increase.

Courtney

February 23rd, 2010
2:05 pm

I cannot believe I am hearing Georgia coming up with the idea to cut education. Soon Atlanta will just be a suburb of Charlotte or Birmingham.

CrazyInGA

February 23rd, 2010
2:05 pm

I’m sick of the educational system in Georgia. If they cut it back to 175/176 this year, they will want to cut it back to 150 and so on in the next few years.

Everything is being cut (public library, schools, employee pay, police and fire departments, etc…).

I know that everyone has to tighten the purse strings, but I’m almost sure they are not cutting the things that truly should have been cut long ago.

Bill Orvis White

February 23rd, 2010
2:05 pm

Voucherize! Voucherize! Voucherize! It’s the only way to properly run a school system. Also, fire all unionized teachers and institute weekly benchmark tests. If you’re school fails, close it and give kids a voucher to go to a winning school. This idea had its seeds planted during the common sense GW Bush years, but now, Hussein Obama has ditched this successful idea. If I had it my way, I would encourage the women to stay at home and school their kids.

Yeah Right!

February 23rd, 2010
2:05 pm

Hey Mr. Grumpy and a lot of others here …

You could go to school for 365 days and we would still be near the bottom of the academic achievement list.

That will stay the same until more parents realize they have to give their kids a little encouragement to learn at HOME!

Don’t throw it all on the schools as only their responsibility for a child’s academic achievement!

GOB

February 23rd, 2010
2:06 pm

Realist – On a traditional schedule (6 classes), the extra 20 minutes actually breaks down to just over 3 extra minutes a day in class. On a hybrid schedule like I am on (on Monday’s our kids go to as many as 8 classes) it would add 2.5 minutes to each class.

As a teacher, adding 3 minutes isn’t going to make up for the 10 hours of class that are taken away by dropping 10 days.

Bill

February 23rd, 2010
2:07 pm

Ben Hill County has already cut next year the number of days down I believe to less than 160 next year. Simply adding a few minutes in the morning and evening.

Bus Driver

February 23rd, 2010
2:10 pm

One thing I see to raise money is charge parents for bringing the kids to school. It is sad that as a bus driver over half of my kids are being driven but I still have to ride by the house anyway.

By parents bringing the kids it causes traffic problems that should not occur.

Mac

February 23rd, 2010
2:10 pm

Cutting back on the 180-days of instruction is the worst idea yet. Teacher furloughs are one thing, and pretty acceptable in my mind for now. Actually cut the contract days and you start negatively impacting teacher retirement contributions which has much more far reaching implications for the rest of teachers’ lives. I’m all for doing our part to help with the furloughs to help get through the tough times, but this little idea is pure garbage.

I should be working

February 23rd, 2010
2:11 pm

Your kids are not doing well because the publib school system is a status quoe system designed for the least common denomenator (i.e. the underachieving students), sort of like organized labor. 170, 180 or 365 days are not going help them. Vote your money away from public schools and seek a private education if you have plans for your kid to ever be more than a factory worker.

woodshed guy

February 23rd, 2010
2:11 pm

Let’s see now. Cut mail delivery to 3 or 4 days a week. Save gas, cut equipment loss, less pollution. Darn, just look at the savings. Cut work week to 3 or 4 days. The savings just keep piling up. The same thinking could be applied to merchants and stores. Heck we could save enough to educate Georgia and Alabama combined. It ain’t going to happen and we couldn’t do it anyway. Cut school time to save money? Surely they bray in jest.

Much better idea

February 23rd, 2010
2:12 pm

Going back to school in the first week of August in the 2010-11 seems more asinine then anything else. Whatever happened to starting school the Tuesday after Labor Day and ending the 1st week in June when we were kids. Seems like we all turned out alright.

BC

February 23rd, 2010
2:15 pm

Here is a good idea. Send you kids to Private Schools instead of the crappy public schools. They may learn something useful.

GOB

February 23rd, 2010
2:16 pm

Much better idea – I would guess that the politicians that are proposing the current plans went to school after Labor Day and through the first week of June. Did they all turn out alright?? I would say not so much.

Albert

February 23rd, 2010
2:17 pm

Protect Hope!!

Bob

February 23rd, 2010
2:18 pm

Georgia is always looking for innovative ideas from other states such as North Carolina. These states realize that great schools and great universities are the only thing keeping them from being tobacco road all over again. We have to understand that excellence in education is the only way to get off the bottom of the list. It is not all about money. But it is all about having the mindset that this is the single most important thing for which state government is responsible. Georgia has been a leader before in the South and can still be but the last few years….

T3

February 23rd, 2010
2:20 pm

My husband and I do not have children yet we are paying sky high taxes to send everyone else’s children to school to learn nothing. I certainly don’t want to pay any more for this kind of return. I don’t even think I should be paying any tax to educate someone else’s children. Just waiting for the senior discount to kick in.

woodshed guy

February 23rd, 2010
2:21 pm

When the pols start cutting, the muscle is usually cut before the fat

Teach SS

February 23rd, 2010
2:22 pm

Research shows that most people lose their focus around 3pm, no matter what time of the day they begin….that can be in a classroom, board meeting or conference…while I applaud the idea of a 4 day week, it would mean cutting times such as SSR (Silent Reading), Advisement, recess, cuttng connection/elective times, etc…I’m all for it actually…this is SCHOOL (especially 6-12) and you are to WORK at school, not have “fun”…yes, there is a time for “Fun”, once the quarter ends or a random pep rally but that’s it! Then, we could do a 4 day school week and end at a decent time!

natalie

February 23rd, 2010
2:23 pm

What is this crazy talk of kids getting worn out at end of school day , cutting it shorter will keep their mind fresh?! LOL How about letting kids have PE during school, don’t sit in front of the tv / computer for hours and get recommended sleep time. I wasn’t worn out by the end of the day, if you are not interested in the subject or the teachers bore you to death, you lose interest. Instead of junk food and sodas , how about healthy stuff to keep you alert. How about preparing our kids for college and the workforce , the “real world”.

An APS Parent

February 23rd, 2010
2:24 pm

As a mother to two children in the APS system, I am always interested in hearing what the latest thoughts are from the lawmakers. I think extending the school day is dumb unless students are given more physical education, lunch and recess time. Even as an adult, I have a hard time staying focused for 7.5 hours at my job. I can imagine it is even harder for my children to focus and learn anything when they aren’t given any “down” time while at school and constantly have their recess cut short or eliminated to accomodate other things during the day. I have never approved of the “teaching to test” currciulum that is so rampant in my children’s classrooms and don’t think extending the day/shortening the school year is going to save the schools any money when you’ve got to keep re-opening schools to offer additional tutoring and re-testing because students continue to perform so poorly even with the “teach to test” curriculum.

Moving!

February 23rd, 2010
2:25 pm

In Georgia, none of this even matters!! The school system sux no matter how many days you go!!

The True REALIST

February 23rd, 2010
2:28 pm

I’ll keep it real here. We would save money, and I agree that it’s probably a good idea to consider reducing the amount of days in school. Lets make the days that the kids are there count though. Correct. Georgia is last in education in the US. Much of that however is not necessarily the school or school system. The parents must share in the responsibility of educating their children. There are many parets who simply send their kids to school and hope for the best. It doesn’t work that way people. We as parents must reinforce what is taught at school. Quit complaining that school needs more days and do your da*m job as a parent. By the way….I’m a parent, but not a teacher.

aTeacher

February 23rd, 2010
2:28 pm

Cammi317, and JustAThought – you are exactly right. I can teach my heart out, if parents don’t value education, it doesn’t do a lot of good. People crack me up talking about private schools…why do you think they work? Have you ever looked at the parents of these kids? They are involved. You can test us, test the kids, cut days, add days, they are all just irrelevant numbers; only numbers that politicians care about. Remember we are working with actual children, not nuts and bolts.

All this crap about Georgia being near the bottom, ok? Yeah, it is, maybe by a percentage point. Not a whole lot of difference between a reading level of 99.7% and 99.4%. “There are Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics” – Winston Churchill

By the way, if you keep cutting my pay, I am going to be so tired from my second job in order to feed my family, that I won’t care much for yours kids anymore.

Marge

February 23rd, 2010
2:30 pm

I think extending the school day will be difficult for young children,I think shortening the week will be hard on the parents and deprive kids of needed education and social stimulation. I think this is a lose-lose for everyone involved. why not cut out some administration crap to save $$$? Good GRIEF!!!! Boy if I knew I was going to have a child in my future I would have NEVER moved to GA to begin with… now I may have to move out.

Education Waste

February 23rd, 2010
2:30 pm

They could easily cut out a lot of fluff and wasted time and get the school year down to 150 days, with millions saved in salaries, benefits, utilities, etc. Plus, they need to cut out a bunch of these overpaid administrators, who do nothing except sit around some easy job, shuffling paper and making up useless rules and curriculum changes.

Tired Broke Teacher (TBT)

February 23rd, 2010
2:31 pm

@Bill Orvis White- ARE YOU SERIOUS!?!? That is why we are in this mess in the first place. Bush created “No Child Left Behind” without planning it and it has proven to sink our educational system further and further down the tube. Lets not even get started on the money issues!! Lets not even turn this into a discussion about the Presidents because that is a losing battle.

Kids are tired and teachers are tired. The only people who are not tired are the parents because they leave all the parenting and teaching to the teachers. When parents are held accountable for their children, we will start to see education turn around.

Bob

February 23rd, 2010
2:34 pm

GA ranks low on educational achievement not because of a failing school system, but because we have some dumb people that produce dumb children. Dumb kids will always be dumb, regardless of how much you try and ram a book down their throat. You can’t educate someone into being intelligent, they’re born that way.

If we could keep dumb people from having children educational achievement would go way up.

So Long!!

February 23rd, 2010
2:36 pm

@Moving!!

So long and fairwell!! We probably won’t miss your kids anyway!!

Educator

February 23rd, 2010
2:38 pm

To all of you that that support further cuts in education, all I can do is ask one question. Why do you think Georgia is ranked 48th in the country in regards to education? Georgia residents should be ashamed and do whatever possible to ensure quality education for it’s young.

Puzz

February 23rd, 2010
2:39 pm

There is a ripple effect here. You cut the number of days…you cut teacher salaries… professioanls who just spent tens of thousands of dollars on a college education can not break $30,000 as an entry level teacher… poor quality teachers (worse than we have now) or a shortage of teachers.