A proposal that would extend the school year in the Los Angeles Unified school district by 20 days could cost up to $300 million, according to a report on a presentation by district officials who don’t appear sold on the idea.
The idea, which was pitched by school board member Monica Garcia earlier this year, has not been endorsed by Superintendent John Deasy, who just recently laid out a set of three-year spending recommendations. Rather, Deasy included the proposal as one item in a long list of “wants” that in total added up to $1.4 billion, according to the report on the L.A. School Report website. In fact, the proposal to add 20 days to the year was the single largest budget item on the list.
The extra school days would put the district on par with the Los Angeles archdiocese school system, which went to a 200-day school year back in 2011, according to a Los Angeles Times report. The article said teachers got a 10 percent raise for the extra month of work and parents had to pay an extra month of tuition.
Thanks to the 2012 approval of Proposition 30 in California, LAUSD now has more money to spend. While deep funding cuts having resulted in shortened school years in the not-so-distant past, the district has now returned to a 180-day calendar.
According to the L.A. School Report, Deasy wants to use the extra money to close a structural budget gap and give raises to teachers.
Meanwhile, in a recent interview with Ed Source Today, the president of United Teachers Los Angeles emphasized that the district should focus on the quality of the school day, not quantity, and the priority should be on rehiring teachers laid off during the economic downturn.
“Right now we still have schools where they have English and science classes with between 40 and 50 students in them,” union President Warren Fletcher said. Now that the district has survived the “budget hurricane,” he said, “we might want to make sure we have a roof before we talk about adding a den.”
Fletcher also said that if the school year is extended, it’s critical that a thoughtful plan is in place on how the additional time is to be used.
“There isn’t some sort of magic to adding three or five days. You have to have a structure,” he said. “The idea isn’t fully baked.”
Officials with the National Center for Time and Learning, which advocates for extended learning time, agree that a good plan is essential. In a report published on its website, the organization says that “time is a resource that must be used well to realize its full potential. Absent intentionality of purpose and the deliberate pursuit of high quality, the power of more time will simply lie dormant.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Time and Learning blog.