Education

State's largest districts shrink school year

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Come September, some California kids will spend less time in the classroom, not by choice, but as a result of budget cuts. Some teachers are being forced to take furlough days so their school districts can balance their budgets. ABC7's media partner California Watch has been investigating how a shorter school year will impact learning.

San Francisco teachers will spend fewer days in the classroom next year, four to be exact. San Jose Unified will cut five days. It's all as a result of California's drastic budget cuts.

"The budget crisis is so severe, that they are now having to cut what is really the core of the education program, increasing class sizes and decreasing the length of the school year," says California Watch reporter Louis Freedberg.

Freedberg surveyed 30 of the state's largest school districts.

"I think one of the things that was in our survey was that just a little over a half of the 30 largest districts in the state are reducing the school year and next year it will be many more," says Freedberg.

California Watch is part of the independent, non-partisan Center for Investigative Reporting.

Alameda Unified is a smaller school district. It too will have a shorter school year after a parcel tax measure failed to pass.

Patricia Sanders represents the teachers there.

"What letter of the alphabet should we skip and not teach when we take five furlough days? What math standard do we leave out?" says Sanders.

California has some of the highest academic standards in the nation. But with fewer school days, teachers say meeting those standards will be a challenge.

"What these four days are going to do to those teachers is to make an even more improbable task to help the kids who need the most help," says teacher Ken Tray.

California Watch found the consensus among many school districts is that California is going in the wrong direction. While some countries have 200 or more school days, California has had 180.

"As it is, prior to all these cuts, we had the shortest school year of any industrialized nation in the world," says San Francisco superintendant Carlos Garcia.

Tray has been a teacher for more than 20 years.

"Think of the young teachers who can't afford to buy a house and are living like college students already. This is a dream deferred, both for students and for teachers, particularly young teachers who want to make a career of education," says Tray.

A shorter school year also means an added expense for parents. No matter how you look at it, parents will either have to take an extra week off from work or pay for child care, leaving families with little or no options, especially since districts are also unable to fund summer school.

You can read the full California Watch report here: Majority of California's largest districts shrink school calendar amid budget crisis

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school cuts, education, lyanne melendez
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