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Governor's Plan - Extended Year - March 11, 2009

As you probably know, Governor Strickland has unveiled a comprehensive education reform plan that proposes profound changes in a number of areas including: Ohio’s failed school funding system, teacher quality standards that change licensure and tenure requirements, revised academic content standards to reflect more rigorous international standards, a new system of student assessment, expanded pre-school programs, greater charter school accountability, and along with several other provisions, proposes an extended school year. In an overall sense, the governor’s plan is bold, innovative, and in some aspects, problematic.
Since the proposed education reforms are incorporated into the biennium budget bill, both houses of the Ohio General Assembly will ultimately need to approve. We can expect support in the House of Representatives which has a governor-friendly majority, while the opposite is likely in the Ohio Senate. Eventually, a House-Senate conference committee will hammer out a compromise budget bill probably before June.
Most states and school districts operate within a 180-190 day August to June school year. The governor as well as many other politicians and educational leaders believe that our school year needs to be more in line with other industrialized nations that have much longer school years (Gt. Britain; 190 days, E. Asian countries 221-225 days). Some people correlate improved student achievement to a longer school day and school year. Nations whose children score above American kids on international assessments tend to have longer school years, but then again, so do nations whose children’s scores fall below the U.S. Nonetheless, the push from Washington on down is for more instructional time, and a school calendar that reflects our world today rather than a 19th century agrarian society.
However, a number of teachers and union leaders have expressed concerns with the governor’s plan to extend the school year twenty days by adding two “learning days” each year for the next ten years. Examples:
  1. Extending the school year does not guarantee improved student achievement especially if resources devoted to student intervention and professional development are not provided.
  1.  Teachers and support staff will need to be compensated for the additional time. However, there is no funding for compensation in the governor’s budget. Additional child care expense and loss of income from other jobs will need to be offset.
  1. An extended school year could impact teachers’ ability to take graduate course work which must be completed for licensure. 
We do not view the extended school year proposal as an automatic “red flag” which we should oppose. However, we need to know the details of the proposal and how it will be funded.
Let us know your thoughts.
Tom Schmida, President
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