Point of view: Four-day-week waiver rules are reasonable
I agree with “Waiver rules reasonable” (Our Views, Jan. 29) regarding Senate Bill 441’s mandate to create standards for school years. As the waiver rule awaits legislative approval with some legislators opposing it, we should all think about the priority of Oklahoma’s children.
Although some urge that four-day weeks are a great education innovation, as a member of the SB 441 committee, I learned that they result in a much longer day for students and a compressed school year. Oklahoma law directs schools to operate 180 days (a six-hour instructional day) or 1,080 hours. As clarified in the meetings, the hours approach was enacted to respond to inclement weather closings. During the most recent state budget crisis, district calendar committees advocated for the hours approach as both a “savings” and a “perk” while waiting for increases to the education budget and teacher pay.
In the committee meetings we learned that of 1,944 schools, 541 have fewer than 165 instructional days (the range was 135 to 164). Of those 541, 210 follow a four-day week, leaving 331 districts with a compressed year of a five-day week. No school with 165 or more days follows a four-day week.
A school year of 135 days means an eight-hour instructional day — before including time for lunch and a round-trip bus ride. A 165-day year is a 6.5-hour instructional day. Which is more reasonable for a kindergartener or a high school student who is active in additional activities or holds a part-time job? Which is more reasonable for a child with disabilities? The adopted rule provides a safety net for children of all ages and abilities.
The statute that enabled the hours approach mandates school boards to revoke that calendar if improvement in student achievement is not documented. That requirement existed before SB 441 and continues. The adopted standards protect taxpayers from districts that neglect their duty to examine student achievement.
The 12 districts opposing the rule in public comments have enrollments from 209 to 2,777 and a school year ranging from 134 to 150 days. Eleven of the 12 districts have superintendent compensation packages exceeding $100,000. With budgets able to afford that kind of leadership, why does the compressed school year continue as a priority for these districts’ calendar committees?
SB 441 and the recently adopted rule put the focus on Oklahoma’s children and what is an appropriate length of school day and year. Encourage your legislator to support it.
Bowersox, of Oklahoma City, is co-founder of Oklahomans For School Calendar Reform.