January 12, 2009 12:37 PM ET | Eddy Ramírez
Facing a massive budget deficit, California is considering shortening the school year by five days, a move that would save the state $1.1 billion. But the proposal is causing uproar among families and educators, who say the consequences would be disastrous, the Los Angeles Times reports. State schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell told the paper the move would hurt low-income and minority children because affluent school districts will most likely have the funds to remain open all 180 days of the school year. If the California legislature agrees to cut the school calendar, the state will join North Dakota, Kentucky, and a few other states that require the least number of school days.
Much of the criticism is being directed at Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who proposed the idea. It bears noting that the governor sends his children to private school. His office says the idea to shorten the school year has received support from school districts that don't want to resort to more painful measures such as employee layoffs and cuts to arts and music programs. But school districts that are facing severe shortfalls in the state say it's not an either-or scenario. The Los Angeles Unified School District, for example, recently announced it is examining the possibility of laying off 2,300 instructors in an attempt to close a $400 million deficit in next year's budget.
American students already spend far less time in school than children in countries such as China and India. Shortening the school week, by even five days, critics say, would undermine efforts by educators to make American teenagers more competitive. Last year, U.S. News wrote about a film titled "Two Million Minutes" that raises concerns about U.S. public education and whether American students spend enough time in school. Tell us what you think. Should states facing budget woes shorten the school year? Is it better than eliminating arts and music programs?