Not just universal pre-K, but an extended school year, too.
Noticing how early schools let out for summer break this year brought back memories of some of my students sharing their sadness’s on the waning days of the school year. They reported that there was nothing to do and some said they had to stay in all day until a parent came home from work.
Parents reported that day programs in our town could cost close to $100 per week and that it was out of the question for more than one child. About 10 years ago when our town had numerous closures due to a few extreme winter storms, the school year was extended to the end of June. Our town’s superintendent decided those extra days would be half days and when I questioned this plan, she said she was thinking of the teachers and wanted to give them a break.
When I relayed some of my students’ sadness regarding the end of school, she was quite surprised, stating she had “never heard such a thing.” I had been thinking that since all grades and reports having been completed and submitted (no extensions), the final weeks could be quite enjoyable for both students and teachers either ensconced in our overly air-conditioned schools or maybe adding more outdoor activity time. Although I had always felt that frequent half days throughout the school year were somewhat disruptive if not disrespectful to working parents, I was impressed by the superintendent’s concern and appreciation for teachers.
So here we are, 2019, some school districts have been out for weeks, and we are focused on the 2020 presidential election and the 20 plus Democratic candidates, expressing their concerns for our country. A number have mentioned their concern for teachers and their intentions to support them with proposed pay raises from $13,000 increases to starting salaries being mandated at $60,000.
Wow, the times may be changing, and this might be the time to add more needed proposals.
So, here’s an idea. Those raises could cushion the runway for a longer school year helping us start to catch up educationally to the rest of the industrialized world. We could add, along with universal preschool, an additional month to the school year in every district. The candidates cite that teachers should be compensated as the true professionals they are. I agree, believing that increased compensation and commitment of time have always been a hallmark of professionalism.
Janet Hutchins is a retired educator and anti-racism advocate.
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