Tuesday, January 13, 2009


U.S.News & World Report

On Education by U.S. News Staff

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?

1 comment:

cut cdc costs said...

The huge prison budget is not even mentioned in the political fight over how to deal with a $27.8 billion budget deficit. The Legislative Analyst budget report prison bed data shows an actual prison bed shortage of about 11,000 beds. The State can simply increase correctional contract beds from the current low 4% of permanent capacity to 7% and avoid spending any bond funds for construction, Contract beds could house the technical parole violators and offenders serving terms of 3 months or less in prison only because of a county jail bed shortage.

Further, the State could save about $.5 billion annually in prison operating costs by implementing a Community Corrections Act with features similar to Minnesota and Oregon programs operated successfully since the 1970’s. Dealing with technical parole violations in the court system, rather than the Board of Parole Hearings, would bring technical parole violation rates to normal levels and in line with other large states, reducing both prison operating and construction costs.

Either action would put a big dent in the deficit. The fact such obvious savings are not even being considered illustrates the incredible political influence of correctional employee unions.