Friday, October 2, 2009

Kids short changed in considering number of days of instruction

In School Daze Update: Budget fight shrinks school year reforms, John Bebow with the Center for Michigan decries the feeble response by the Legislature to the outcry about the shrinking number of days of school our K-12 students attend school. I commented as follows:

While a school business manager, I argued for more school days rather than fewer, longer days to meet the clock hour requirements. I felt little more was learned with a few more minutes each day, as compared with more days. The bias for fewer days came through negotiations with the teachers’ unions, as they preferred a shorter work year, which means more days off during the year or a longer summer. Sometimes we considered the savings created by fewer school days because of fewer days you needed to run the busses, but the teacher negotiations were the primary driving factor.

Few school boards are willing to stick to their guns in negotiations with the teachers. I described the tools (laws) available to use in negotiations in my presentation to the Michigan School Business Officials annual meeting in 2006 entitled “Taking Back the Ship”, but I am aware of only one district that has been able to extract a favorable result. Heck, in Detroit, even when the teachers struck in violation of the law, NO ONE sought to enforce the law.

Tom Watkins puts it even more bluntly when he commented, “While education should be about teaching, learning and children– far too often, in Michigan and across the US– it is more about: POWER, CONTROL, POLITICS and ADULTS.”

It is time we focus on what is best for the students' learning, and less about providing employment with rich salaries and benefits for adults.


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