160-day minimum year coming

Trailer bill permits cutting 3 more weeks
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Call it a last-minute clarification or a June surprise, another piece of bad news: A trailer bill that the Legislature will vote on Wednesday permits districts to slash the school year by an additional three weeks for the next two years, if voters reject Gov. Brown’s tax increase in November. That’s twice what  Gov. Jerry Brown seemed to suggest in the May budget revise when he proposed the elimination of 15 days divided over a two-year period. Instead, the Legislature is prepared to authorize a 160-day year, likely the lowest in the nation and far behind other advanced nations; nearly all states have a 180-day year, which California also required before 2010.

In one sense, nothing has changed. Brown hasn’t suggested less funding for schools than the $53.6 billion for 2012-13 that the Legislature approved in passing the budget last week. Districts will have to negotiate a shorter year with their unions; they can’t declare it unilaterally, and most districts won’t go that low.

But the language in AB 1476 (section 50, midway through a very long bill) is a stark message that a defeat of the tax increase will create more than a one-year revenue crisis for schools.

Brown basically spared K-12 schools cuts in this year’s state budget but is promising to slash school funding by $5.5 billion if voters reject the income tax/sales tax increase. That translates to $441 per student, about an 8.4 percent cut in funding. Eliminating 15 days out of a minimum 175 days would be an 8.6 percent cut in the calendar. So cutting 7.5 days each of the next two years would solve only half of the gap, leaving districts to make other cuts through layoffs, benefits, or non-pay areas.

Lowering the minimum year to 160 days now would be too late for those districts and unions that already have negotiated potential cuts. Sacramento City Unified teachers earlier this month approved a two-day furlough, plus an additional 10 days, lowering the school year to 168 days, if the tax initiative fails.

A Senate staff member said that the intent of the trailer bill language is to give districts more flexibility to cope with terrible choices. Most districts won’t go to a 160-day year, but it will be an option. Because districts must submit balanced budgets for two years beyond the current year, districts can negotiate with certainty for continued furloughs through 2013-14. The governor approved the trailer bill language, which clears up any ambiguous reading of his earlier proposals, the staff member said.

But Robert Miyashiro, vice president of the education consulting firm School Services of California, said that the Legislature shaped the budget the way it is, so it is disingenuous to say, It is out of our hands. Legislators strategically set it up to say the schools must take a big cut if the initiative flops.

A spokesman for the California Teachers Association said that the union had not read the trailer bill language and could not comment. The trailer bill also contains language permitting  teachers and other school employees to accrue a full year of  vesting for pensions if a district’s school year drops to as few as 160 days.

20 Comments

  1. How many days are required to complete STAR testing?

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  2. Well Paul, that would be six days for your average 3rd grade class to complete the STAR testing not to mention the two weeks prior for prepping before the ‘BIG’ test. Do legislators not realize what they are doing to our future leaders? Our children always pay the highest price and worst of all…the children in poverty will be suffer the most.

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  3. For today’s children to go up the economic ladder in an increasingly competitive global economy, we need community leaders to encourage go-go-go – especially during times outside the public school classroom.
    Students have to learn more languages, more math, more science, more journaling, more literature, more history, more marketable skills, more arts, more music, more … everything.  And, very little of this MORE will come from a public school system that is being cut to less.  There’s still plenty of time for fun and recreation, but today’s young people will have to be organized at home and structured in approach and dedicated to lifting themselves to new levels of achievement.  Self-starters will be the ones who win the competition among current youth.  Mayors, city councils, county supervisors and other municipal leaders no longer can count on the public school system to make education happen alone.
    For millions of young people to compete and eventually earn financial stability, parents, community influencers and the business community have to reward initiative.  Simply showing up to school, submitting work on time and making it through enrolled courses will not be enough to lead this generation of students to success in coming years.  The levels of show up, submit and make through are better than those of drop out or blow off, but there will be little substitute for hard work and extra effort outside the classroom for those who wish to rise.
    If we want poverty to decline, if we want the rougher parts of town to tony-up, if we want students to learn more than what was learned by past generations, we must demand independent learning and we must push parents to facilitate more academic work from their kids.  If we depend on the public school system to supplement the learning done outside the classroom, we’ll move towards success even as we cut in-class school days.  If we give up, we disrespect today’s kids even more than our structure already does.  It’s time for higher expectations and new thinking about community-focused educational standards that look to public schools as one partner – but not the sole source of a city’s educational achievement.
    Please don’t get me wrong.  I fully support longer school days and longer school years, with high achievement expectations.  But, the reality for today’s kids – my kids, your kids – is they will have fewer public school classroom days and less in-classroom hours than at any time in the past century.  Nonetheless we still have to guide today’s youth to outpace and outperform our predecessors.  There is no “either-or.”  We’re in a new era that has to result in “both-and.”
    Children of parents with no property equity will have to scramble like crazy to develop financial stability in coming years.  Community leaders can embrace our own preferential options for poor children by nudging, pushing, cajoling and demanding high year-round academic efforts OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM for financially-challenged kids who face difficult paths to match the financial success of children from families with decades of equity on which to build.  This won’t be an easy challenge, but even without major funding, it’s not physically impossible.  Desire.  Will.  Cultural will.  Political will.  Social will.  Faith community will. Neighborhood will.
    Basically – commitment to hard work.
    With cuts after cuts after cuts, structured public school now is just one part of a child’s education.  An important part, yes!  But, if community leaders count primarily on public school employees to coordinate sufficient academic and career formation for today’s kids, we’ll all sink.  Opportunities for today’s youngsters to compete in a high-population society will be developed and enhanced before and after the school bells ring.  We can’t continually shorten school days and cut back school years and arrive at any other reasonable conclusion.
    - Chris Stampolis
    Santa Clara, CA
    stampolis@aol.com  *  408-771-6858

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  4. Chris Stampolis has made a good point, educators in the public schools cannot continue to be held accountable when the society keeps piling on the area of responsibility, cutting the resources, and interfering with teachers’ voice in  content and organization, while continuing to diminish the time in the classroom.
    Besides the much harolded ‘Respect for teachers,’  there are other notable differences, at least in the European models that my own children attended and I also taught:
    1. More overall  days in school, but with shorter summer breaks and more week or four day weekend vacations.
    2. Many countries have much longer days, with out many extra curricular subjects in the school day. the expection was Germany, at least until 2000, which held class until 1:00 pm and then gave children very structured homework.
    4. Yes they have physical education, music appreciation and drawing, but sports, band clubs are not connected with the school.
    5 Children start second language learning at least by 9 years old, if not earlier.
    6. Both math and sciences are comprehensive subjects up until the 10 grade, meaning  set theory and number facts, algebra and geometry, are all taught together with all students. This is true for physics, chemistry and biology.
    6. There is much memorization; Stuents learn poems, capitals and mountain peaks, for example.
    The way this country is headed, I fear we are going back to Jane Austin’s time.

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  5. This appears to be a 160 day minimum.  Would schools that have funds available be able to have a longer year – leaving lower ADA funded and most often low socio economic Districts with a shorter school year than their more affluent and less diverse neighbors?

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  6. @Hilary – yes, districts could choose to stay with 180 days or any number larger than 160. They might do this with outside funds, they might elect to increase class size, or they might elect to save money some other way. Teachers may agree to take pay cuts. They might elect a 4-day school week, keeping the school year the same length and loading on homework for that 5th day.
     
    In any case, it’s important to note that this doesn’t “save money.” It is a tax on families who will need to find an additional 20 days of child care.  It takes money out of the pockets of teachers, making teaching less desirable as a job when the rent can’t be paid. And in the long run, everyone understands that this will lower academic achievement and hurt the state’s tax base.
     
    Fascinating, @Paul and @Judy, isn’t it, that there’s always time to measure “academic achievement” but the time to create it is expendable. Why not just roll some dice and stipulate that all the kids are “failing” and then spend that week or two or three on supplemental instruction, if we’re talking about cutting four weeks from the required school year?  Let’s just use last year’s scores and call it good, eh?

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  7. @Hilary, I believe ADA is the amount per child then divided by the number of days for your school. ADA $ will be the same for a minimum day as for a longer day. A school with 160 days would thus have a higher ADA rate than a 180 day school. I would appreciate a correction if this isn’t accurate.

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    • Hilary: Rick Simpson, deputy chief of staff for Assembly Speaker John Perez, provided us with this explanation:
      An ADA is like a full-time equivalent. Specifically, it’s days of actual attendance divided days of possible attendance. So, if a district runs a 170-day year and a student attends 165 days that student generates 165/170 = 0.9706 of an ADA. The amount per ADA is the base revenue limit and is set by the Ed Code or trailer bill. The base revenue limit applies regardless of the length of their instructional year. The trigger cut of $2.7 billion would reduce the amount per ADA districts receive. Districts would then have the option (assuming they negotiate it, etc.) to reduce their COSTS by running a shorter school year which reduces personnel costs, utilities, etc.

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  8. “A spokesman for the California Teachers Association said that the union had not read the trailer bill language and could not comment.” 

    Does anyone really believe that?  CTA probably wrote at least half of the bill. 

    Also, does anyone really believe the Dems won’t come back in November to implement an alternative plan after the tax increase fails?  This is just a way to scare people into supporting the tax increase. 

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  9. Perhaps they should dial-back the API and AYP targets by 8.6 percent (or more) too?

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  10. Depending on the grade, for my kids Star testing has lasted from 1 to 2 weeks.  What a big waste of time!  Actually, it does more harm than good because it makes my kids hate school, at least the star testing portion of it.  So much for cultivating a passion for learning.

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  11. With a 2/3 legislative vote requirement to raise money for schools and other public programs, the Republican minority controls the show.  Or rather, Grover Norquist runs California.

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  12. I guess we’ll save a bit of money because we won’t have to print as many diplomas in the future..
     
    Good one Eric.
     
    Unfortunately, I have to agree with capitol’s last sentence. Were it otherwise, the ‘flexibility’ provided by the legs would have included other things as well, like leaving out accountability or budgetary reporting constraints. I read recently that we spend over a half billion a year on CAHSEE. Unfortunately even doing away with that completely wouldn’t get us anywhere near our number. We’ve already talked about getting rid of STAR testing for 2nd graders. Maybe we should do that for all elementary grades. Unfortunately that wont get us our number either. Hmm.
     
    I guess really the only thing left to do is to move all our non special Ed,  english only students to charter schools and then flex all the categoricals… Oh wait, maybe that was the plan all along..?

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  13. I realized I asked a question other than what I intended.  Is there a minimum number of days of school required to prepare for STAR testing?  I’m wondering if there is a shortest possible year.

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  14. I believe some states give their tests at the beginning of the year so teachers can actually use the information for their teaching (to the extent there is any information to be had). Anyway, it’s an interesting question. I’m still trying to understand how to measure that. Given that many are not at grade level based on current results, even our 180 day year could be argued as shorter than the ‘shortest possible year’, if that is defined by the ability of schools to prepare students to succeed at those tests. But I think standardized tests were supposed to be a measure and not the goal. If that were still true, it shouldn’t matter much when they were given (as long as we understood what they were measuring).

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  15. Usually the tests are given in April, so after say 150 days of school.

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  16. In all this discussion I am not seeing anyone addressing the rolling out of the common core that is coming to the tune of 8 billion dollars in California.  While I see the potential good coming out of national standards I also see the cost as possibly the straw that breaks the public education camel’s back.  The costs of new materials, new assessment tools, and staff training are not cheap.
    Standardized testing as a result of  NCLB under BushII has done great harm to public education. Assessment should ultimately be used to determine student progress and what needs to be reviewed or re-taught not as a club to beat schools and teachers.  It is a tool and should be used as such.  Politicos need to stop calling for more testing and start calling for relevant instruction.  21st century learning is different from the education we earlier generations received.  Kids today live in a rapidly changing technological environment where creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration are not just nice to have but are essential to function effectively in a world where information is a click away and the ability to utilize that information is the key to success.  Access to technology isn’t just a good thing for students it is essential, and teachers, in addition to parents, need to be teaching young students how to use that technology appropriately.  The world is open to students like never before and education needs to be thinking globally just as business must operate in a flat world.  All of this costs money and yet our politicians use education as a political football during elections to generate support for their campaigns then proceed to continue on a path that is destroying the very thing they were championing.

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  17. I think that allowing districts to shorten the school year is excellent public policy.
     
    Politicians, and executives within the school system, think it’s their job to pretend that we can accomplish more (not even the same) with less money. Sure, we can raise K-3 class size from 20 to 32; what are a few extra kids? Sure, we can raise Algebra I class size from 20 to 40; what are a few extra kids? Sure, we can switch from cleaning classrooms daily to cleaning them every other day; what’s a little extra dust? Sure, we can replace full-time credentialed library media teachers with part-time classified technicians; all they did was check out books, right? Sure, we can eliminate counselors and vice principals; 1 principal can serve 1100 students next year just as well as a team of 1 principal, 2 VPs and 2 counselors, did last year, right? Etc., etc. [Each of these reductions is a true example from a school district in which I have served.]
     
    Shortening the school year in proportion to available funding sends a clear message: no, it’s not possible to do more, or even the same, with less money. If you want the services, pay for them. If not, don’t. Judging by the electoral record, Californians are not willing to pay more for education. Shortening the school year gives the public exactly what it has asked for.

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  18. As per the STAR website, “The window to be comprised of the 12 days before and 12 days after the day on which 85 percent of the instructional year is completed.”

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