A growing number of school districts are squeezing the five-day school week into four longer days to save money, the Washington Postreports. This disturbing trend is a striking example of the hardships that education funding cuts impose on children and working parents — in addition to the toll they take on the nation’s long-term economic competitiveness.
A number of schools with large concentrations of low-income and minority students have boosted student achievement by giving students additional time in class, according to the Center for American Progress. Cutting a day out of the school week makes that more difficult, if not impossible. It also reduces the availability of important extracurricular activities.
In the long run, limiting opportunities to extend learning time hurts not only students but the broader economy, because the United States will need a well educated, highly skilled workforce to compete globally. Students in a number of other countries already receive far more learning time than their American counterparts.
For some families, the four-day school week also could pose additional hardships for working parents already struggling in the recession, such as by raising their day care costs.
At a time when the nation should be looking at reforms that enhance learning, the four-day week is a step backward. A better idea would be for states to maintain their support for education by taking a balanced approach that includes more revenues, instead of relying on cuts alone to deal with the gap between growing needs and the resources it takes to meet them.