Longer school year? Not now.

Emerging from the fog (and house arrest) of a cold, I notice that the most recent U.S. president aspiring to be SchoolSuperintendentinChief thinks it would be a dandy idea to lengthen the school year.

Without debating the educational value (if any) of the president’s proposal, it is safe to assure the school kids of Texas they needn’t worry about sacrificing any additional summer vacation time because a longer school year isn’t going to happen here, at least not now. A longer school year shouldn’t even be considered until our state “leaders” figure out a way to adequately pay for the school year we already have. The last time legislators tackled school funding, they gave Gov. Rick Perry some transitory property tax cuts to brag about during his 2006 reelection campaign but ended up $4.5 billion a year short of paying for them.

Remedial math, unfortunately, is not a requirement for election to the Texas Legislature…or the governor’s office.

The current Texas public school year is 187 instructional days, already significantly higher than the U.S. average of 180 days. On top of that, school districts also offer summer school classes for students needing extra help or trying to get ahead.

Legislative support, however, is lessthanstellar. Texas ranks 38th among the states in the amount of money spent on perpupil instruction and 34th in average teacher pay (as of the 200809 school year), several thousand dollars below the national average. And, yes, higher teacher pay would have to be part of any effort to lengthen the school year.

But there is little need to worry about that fight now, what with the Legislature facing a revenue shortfall in January already estimated at $21 billion today and who knows how much tomorrow.

No, a longer school year is not in the foreseeable future for Texas, and no amount of presidential lecturing is going to put it there.


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