Two bills backed by Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat cleared a committee Tuesday, including one that would force more Oklahoma school districts to return to five-day school weeks.
The Senate Education Committee voted 11-6 for the bill by Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, which calls for all public schools to be in session for no less than 180 days. Currently, schools are to be in session for 1,080 hours.
According to the state Education Department, 92 of Oklahoma's more than 500 districts are currently operating on four-day school weeks.
Now I am a product of the Oklahoma public school system myself and therefore cannot math as good as those Oklahoma Christian Academy kids can. But according to those stats, about 18% of Oklahoma schools are currently running on a 4 day school week. That’s not only bad for the kids’ education, but also for parents who may be scrambling to afford childcare to keep watch over their spawn while they’re at work.
But if you keep reading, this News OK article seems to paint a beautiful picture of what the bills plan to do, which is create opportunities for children to expand their education and provide resources for homeless students. Many would be happy to know that Oklahoma lawmakers are finally making education a priority. But the thing is, they really aren’t.
Due to years of dwindling school budgets, some Oklahoma school districts decided to switch to four-day school weeks. In addition to saving money, the districts said it was a way to recruit and retain teachers.
“We have increased attendance, which should improve our test scores, and we are retaining teachers,” said McLoud Public Schools Superintendent Steve Stanley.
However, many Republican lawmakers believe districts should move back to a five-day week…
Earlier this month, House Democrats told News 4 that they wouldn't endorse the mandate without fixing other things.
"To say, from the Legislature, no, you have to have this plan exactly how we want it, when we know that we have continually underfunded them and that's the reason why they are open four days a week - that's foolish," said Emily Virgin, House Minority Leader.
So yes, Senate Bill 441 would keep more schools open 5 days per week. I looked through the bill and saw the requirements for the 180 days, as well as a requirement for data collection to be done by school districts and sent to the State Department of Education to make sure students’ needs are being met. While accountability and full school weeks are important for Oklahoma children, it’s also important that there’s funding to support it. Which is not something this bill seems to give. Schools aren’t going to 4-day weeks because they want to. They’re just using the resources they have to provide the best experience they can afford. And Senators aren’t passing this legislation because they want to help school children. They are just using the resources they have to provide the best talking points for their constituents.
Call Hayley almond extract 'cause she's bitter. Then follow her on Twitter @squirrellygeek