A reader asked me recently about why have schools close for MLK day. The point was made that these kids were getting out of school with no idea as to why or how big of an impact he had on our nation. Wouldn't it be better to keep them in school and have them study about Dr. King for the day?
This is my response -
I’ve been spending some time thinking about the issue you brought up about a day off for MLK. Unfortunately, you have run head first into an issue that is controlled entirely by money.
The main problem with any discussion about education policy in the United States is how education policy is thought of. If you listen to policy makers in other nations, they talk about education as an investment in the future. They don’t expect results today or tomorrow and they see education as a way to make a better nation generations into the future. To them education is a long term investment. Now take a moment to listen to talk of education policy in the United States. Education is a cost. It is an expenditure that must be controlled and results should be seen tomorrow if not sooner. No fast results? The cost is not worth it. Gotta protect the bottom line.
What does this have to do with a school holiday? First understand that school calendars are probably the cause of some of the most heated debates in school administration. Every person in the room, no matter how important or unimportant, no matter how informed or uninformed, wants his or her say and usually gets it. That’s a lot of voices shouting for their own cause and many many many compromises are made. Most of these compromises are made in the name of money. Hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars can be made or lost in a school budget based on when children are in school. Many districts across the US have looked into a four day week simply for the cost savings that can be generated by turning the lights off for an extra day. Parents screaming about the personal cost to them for daycare is the only force preventing this idea from taking hold. (Of course their voting for every tax cut that comes along is what destroyed the school budgets in the first place, but that is a rant for another time.)
You can’t find a better example of money making decisions better than the year round school argument. Countless reams of research have been printed on the benefits of year round schooling. It is well documented that year round school prevents loss of educational gains over summer. Especially for those low income and special ed students that keep getting left behind. Many have commented on the question of why is our school calendar based on an 18th century agricultural model (kids get summer break so they can stay home and help with the harvest) when we are educating for the 21st century and beyond? The answer is money. Forgetting about the argument about teacher pay, just consider the thought of keeping a campus of 2000 teenagers cool in the middle of August. Who is going to pay that bill?
Money even dictates the time of day that class starts. Just as in the year round argument numerous studies have proven what every parent knows: teenagers don’t do mornings. So why don’t high schools start later in the day? Bus schedules. It costs too much to keep the busses running all day and many high school students can use alternate transportation to get to school so they get the short end of the stick. The district could buy more busses and hire more drivers but…
As far as keeping students in school and having a day to look at the impact of MLK when are you going to fit it in? Schools already loose close to a month of teaching time each year to various federal, state, and district mandated testing, not to mention all of the various other social education programs such as say no to drugs and various be nice to each other programs. More days could be added to the calendar, but it costs money to open the doors and remember costs in education in the United States are to be avoided whenever possible. Especially for academics. Also, there is no test covering MLK so there is no reason to lose instructional time on something that is not tested. That is the ultimate reality in education right now.
I'm not what you would call a morning person. I'm more than happy to hide under the covers until 9:30 or so in the morning. Like a civilized person.
Sometimes that just isn't in the cards and you end up waking up with the sun. This was the case a few weeks ago while visiting family in Colorado Springs. I had two choices: Grump about it or grab my camera.
At least I got some nice pictures out of it!
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