Should states restrict the rights of school districts to shorten the school year?I am trying to help my middle school debate team get ready for their first debate. I'd like a variety of opinions...

Should states restrict the rights of school districts to shorten the school year?I am trying to help my middle school debate team get ready for their first debate. I'd like a variety of opinions and sources, please! Thanks in advance. :)

Asked on by litteacher8

11 Answers | Add Yours

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Sure, states have the power to restrict all sorts of educational standards and practices, but I don't think the states can dictate the length of a school year in an environment where funding for those same schools is continually being cut.  In most states, schools are already down to bare bones budgets, and they will have to be creative in order to operate under them, up to and including shortening the school year.

You do think or you don't think you favor states regulating length?: "but I don't think the states can dictate the length of a school year ... they will have to be creative ... up to and including shortening the school year."

It seems to me that this is a far more complicated issue than it may appear to be on the surface. State educational systems receive federal funding for at least a portion of operating costs. This creates a situation in which the Federal government has prior authority over determining and/or approving certain elements of state school policy. Adding to that the new academic standardization requirements, it seems unlikely that state school regulation would be permitted to supersede Federal policy.

  I do believe that determining the length of the school day and year is the purview of the state governments, my point is that in the current economic climate of severe budget cuts to state education, it is unrealistic to expect that a district not consider shortening the day, week or year as a way to meet the cuts handed down by those same state governments.

Federal funding is mostly made up of money for Special Education, access under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Free and Reduced Lunch program and on a more limited basis, money for construction and remodeling.  There is ample precedent for states determining the length of their own school years, and NCLB focuses more on testing results and the tie to block grants.  I don't think that changes the 10th Amendment authority of the states over the majority of educational matters, and states are able to opt out of NCLB, as Utah has.

pacorz's profile pic

pacorz | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

In New Hampshire schools can choose whether to have a school calendar based on days, or one based on hours. The calculations come out to the same number of hours per school year either way, but it allows individual districts to have more freedom in planning their calendars. A couple of years ago when fuel prices suddenly spiked up some NH school districts studied having longer days and four-day weeks in the interest of cutting heat and transportation costs.

#9 makes an excellent point about Federal authority in schools that accept federal funding. I think that the Federal government should have the right to set a minimum standard based on hours, since they are paying for it, and since the future prosperity of our country as a whole is dependent on have a well-educated citizenry.  I do believe that states should have the right to legislate a school year that is longer, but not one that is shorter, than that set by the Federal government.

It's important for you and your fellow debaters to recognize that "states" don't actually make laws. The elected representatives of the people make laws, so any law should be a reflection of the wishes of the majority of the people in the state.

kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Sure, states have the power to restrict all sorts of educational standards and practices, but I don't think the states can dictate the length of a school year in an environment where funding for those same schools is continually being cut.  In most states, schools are already down to bare bones budgets, and they will have to be creative in order to operate under them, up to and including shortening the school year.

You do think or you don't think you favor states regulating length?: "but I don't think the states can dictate the length of a school year ... they will have to be creative ... up to and including shortening the school year."

It seems to me that this is a far more complicated issue than it may appear to be on the surface. State educational systems receive federal funding for at least a portion of operating costs. This creates a situation in which the Federal government has prior authority over determining and/or approving certain elements of state school policy. Adding to that the new academic standardization requirements, it seems unlikely that state school regulation would be permitted to supersede Federal policy.

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Sure, states have the power to restrict all sorts of educational standards and practices, but I don't think the states can dictate the length of a school year in an environment where funding for those same schools is continually being cut.  In most states, schools are already down to bare bones budgets, and they will have to be creative in order to operate under them, up to and including shortening the school year.

stolperia's profile pic

stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I can't imagine any state agreeing to allow individual school districts to shorten the overall length of the school year, since most school districts are heavily dependent upon funding from the state and the state demands accountability for the use of those funds. As #6 notes, there may be some flexibility in structuring how that required amount of student contact time is scheduled, but not reducing the overall number of hours or days.

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Most states have laws in place concerning the total number of minimum hours/days that schools must reach during a calendar year. I don't think individual districts should be able to override state laws, but I see no problem with districts reaching these minimums in any manner they wish. I worked for many years in a rural area of Florida where watermelon and peanut harvests were important; the district solved this problem by beginning school very early in August and ending school in late May, in time for students to work the harvest season. The district still got its 200 school days in accordance with Florida law.

larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

If the state is to prohibit school districts from shortening the school year, then the state must step up to the plate and provide adequate funding for the year. Obviously, differences between rich and poor districts will rear their ugly heads; but one cannot simply pass a "thou shall not" law and consider that a cure of the problem. My home state has attempted to remedy this situation by removing 90 per cent of school funding from local districts and providing it through the state department on a per capita basis. That way all funding is equalized, and there is no advantage gained by rich" districts. Until such time as legislatures are willing to provide equality of funding; however, it should not hobble school districts by imposing conditions which they cannot hope to meet.

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

I have to agree with #3 on this one. For some communties, such as rural ones, where help is needed from children at various points in the year, massive pressure will be placed on school administrations to shorten the year or to give holidays depending on the needs of the community, which will in turn impact massively the achievement gap.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Yes, I think that they should.  I think that giving districts the right to determine the length of their own school year is too likely to lead to a widening of the gap between rich and poor.  Poor districts might well shorten their school years due to financial pressures while rich ones keep them at their current length.  This would be disastrous for those who need school the most.

lorrainecaplan's profile pic

Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

This is an unusual topic for a middle school debate, an issue that would not ordinarily seem to be controversial because to the best of my knowledge, all states mandate the length of the school year for ail school districts, and while I have heard of plenty of instances in which school districts wanted to lengthen the school year, week, or day, I am not aware of any movements to shorten the school year. Having said all that, I think there are pros and cons to the issue.

One argument against this is that local school districts might be in agricultural districts, with economies that require more help from students during certain seasons.  Another argument is that in today's economy, students often want to or need to work to help their families.  So, a state-wide policy that restricted the needs of individual school districts could make things difficult for school and families.  Also, in the world today, there is a stronger emphasis on developing work skills, and an individual school district might want to meet that need by allowing a shorter school year that would enable students to take jobs that would help them prepare for the real world. Another factor is the cutbacks that are taking place in most areas.  Sometimes a school might want to have a shorter school year to save money and not have to raise taxes.

On the other hand, if the state does not have a minimum school year requirement and each district can do as it pleases, there would be many situations in which students would not receive even an adequate education, much less a good one.  In my state, there is an 180-day requirement, which all schools must adhere to, whether they are public or private.  Given how poorly prepared students are for work or college, what is to be gained by allowing students to go to school less?

 

kinghtalexis's profile pic

kinghtalexis | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted on

Yes of course, all academic institues must abide the regulatory authorities and must have a set curriculum which comprises of all the activities that is minimal enough for student's growth and development or else many would back out and only run the school for busines purpose.

We’ve answered 318,929 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question