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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

More Schools Turn To Four Day Week To Cut Costs


Schools are cash strapped and they’ve been cutting the arts, sports, any after school activities, and now many are cutting a day.

The Washington Post reports that nearly 300 school districts across the country have cut a school day from the week to save money. Four day weeks have been around since the 1930s, but mostly in rural areas, where the cost of bussing students is so high. One school that recently turned to a four day week is North Branch, Minnesota.

“We wanted to maintain as many teachers as we could in the classroom, to maintain class size that was as reasonable as it could be and this is one of the great savings that we were able to come up with,” North Branch superintendent Deb Henton told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Total Savings=$250K

Henton says that the four day week saved North Branch $250,000. As the Washington Post reports:

Savings are gained in electricity, food and transportation as well as the wages for cafeteria workers, bus drivers and other nonsalaried employees…totaling around just 2.5 percent of a typical budget.

The Impact On Students

Henton points out that instruction time for students has not fallen, the remaining four school days are longer, and achievement has not decreased.

But there has been some criticism– some students who end up in day care one day a week say they are bored and would rather be in school. And with longer days, teachers have had to change the way they teach to keep students’ attention (Though some families say they like that their child has a three day weekend.)

Kids Caught In The Middle Of Debate

Henton said that North Branch moved to the four day week because of budget constraints. She said that voters in North Branch have rejected a tax increase to pay for the schools, a resistance she attributes to the high tax burden that residents bear. Henton said that in areas with more businesses or a denser population, voters have agreed to increased taxes to fund the schools. Henton says the state will not contribute more to pay for the schools.

“It’s a very difficult situation and caught right in the middle are the kids,” she said.

Do you have a four-day school week? Do you think this is a reasonable way to save money? Tell us in the comments section or on our Facebook page.


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  • http://twitter.com/pait Felipe Pait

    So, cancel 25% of instruction to save 2.5% of costs. I think Here&Now asked softball questions. You could have asked how much the superintendent makes. Firing a bureaucrat who cuts school days is an efficient way to cut costs.

    • Walker

      1 day out of five is 20%. How many days did you go to school?

      • http://twitter.com/pait Felipe Pait

        I used to skip the manners class. So for me a day less is 25% less. Likewise for you, I surmise?

  • Ilene S. Rosen

    I just heard the story about the school district that has turned to a four-day week. It seems to me that criticizing this district’s decision is a case of blaming the victim. According to what the superintendent said, this district made multiple efforts to get more funding and were voted down. They implemented an innovative way to cut costs without, apparently, significantly impacting school performance. It sounds to me that they accomplished exactly what they were being asked to do. I agree with the superintendent that they deserve to be praised.

    Paying low taxes has consequences. If citizens want children to have a quality education, they need to pay for it.

  • Katharine Wiley

    People and schools are in ghastly situations, where there are few if any good answers.  Yet I can’t help feeling that this is ultimately a penny-wise/pound-foolish approach.  The people who didn’t want to pay higher taxes now have to pay for more day-care, and more people are working fewer hours and therefore having their wages cut.  And those people are all the non-salaried people, the ones who can least afford wage cuts.  So, over all, for all the savings, most people aren’t winding up with more money.  It also doesn’t exactly make people or businesses rush to an area, knowing the schools are being cut like this. 

    I’d like to know if the Superintendent of Schools even offered to take a pay cut.  In many rural areas, the principals and superintendents are making enormously more than even the highest-paid teachers (and teachers aren’t really paid a lot) — hundreds of thousands of dollars.   But really, we need a better way to fund our public schools than our current system of local taxes.  I heard a few years back Wisconsin was going to create one state-wide pool and then divvy up the money relatively equally, but I’ve never heard if that happened and if so what the results have been thus far.

  • Lavada

    Back in the late seventies I read several studies that the U.S. spent around $1,400 per student but well over $4,300 to train an American soldier.
    That trend is still the same over 35 years later. We spend more money to train soldiers to kill others oversieas for their resources than is spent within the country on education  for our children.

    “I don’t want a nation of thinkers. I want a nation of workers.” John D. Rockefeller (founded the National Education Association)

  • Abucksledge

    The school district for Hinsdale County in Colorado has been using a four day school week for well over 10 years. They are state ranked for their academic achievements. Low class size and extremely competent teachers are responsible for these results. The four day school week works well for them.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder how far this is, really, from what happens in the lauded public school systems of Wellesley and Newton, MA? Newton has functionally a 4.5 day week, because the elementary schools end the day every Tuesday at 12:30. In my mind, we are already on a 4.5 day week in that town.

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