Tuesday, February 05, 2013

On the Six Hour School Day Bill: We Did This To Ourselves

Over the weekend my email box went kaboom over the coming of Senate Bill 5588, which is getting special attention because of this particular language:
 "School day" means a minimum of six instructional hours as defined in RCW 28A.150.205 each day of the school year on which pupils enrolled in the common schools of a school district are engaged in academic and career and technical instruction planned by and under the direction of the school. Late start, early release of students, or partial days resulting in less than six instructional hours is prohibited unless the release is for a full school day.

Let's start with the dumb unintended consequence first:  this bill would take away the ability for a school district to do a 2 hour late start in the event of inclement weather.  That would be a stupid loss of local control, and I'm fairly certain that's not the intent even if that's what the clear language would mean.  I expect that to be amended for clarity.

This should be a moment for a bit of introspection, though, because I think we all know how bills like this happen.  The parents of our current public school student didn't grow up with every Friday afternoon being cancelled, or every Wednesday being a late start for professional development, and they resent it when they have to pay for child care or change their schedule.  We in the system try to cover it up with platitudes about "That's a great time for parents to schedule dentist appointments!" or "The families get used to it!", but they still resent it.  I live near the intersection of three school districts, two of which run late start or early release, so I've heard the complaining first hand.

Some blame also goes to the legislature and OSPI.  When the LID days were cut, there went dedicated time for professional development.  Getting angry at school districts for trying to fill that void is a dodge of responsibility.  Similarly, when OSPI used to host their Summer Institutes around the state during the summer that was a great opportunity for school teams to get together and work on things; that was lost to budget cuts early on in this financial crisis.

The correct thing to do would be to fund the 10 LID days proposal that the State Board of Education is asking for, because that would actually solve the problem.  This bill, which is another slap at local control from people who should know better, is not the way.

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