While scrolling through the news this morning, I ran across an article about a school district in Colorado who is moving to a four-day school week starting next August. While the district says the move is not wholly financial, it comes after six separate bond measures have failed. The district expects this move will save them in one year several million dollars in transportation and utilities costs alone. And this is not the first district to make this move. As of the writing of this post, they will be the ninety-ninth district in Colorado alone to switch to a four-day school week.
Often our initial reaction is, “Four days?! What kind of school system does this, prioritizing finances above education?!” But the truth of the matter is school districts have to pay their bills just like everyone else, and when the money isn’t coming in from the state or the locality or the taxes (and really, that is where it all traces back to), school districts have to tighten their belts and make hard, sometimes drastic, choices. A four-day week is one such drastic choice.
Don’t get me wrong, as April 15th approaches, I can sympathize with hating paying taxes as much as anybody else. Cutting that check to the state or looking at the withholdings lines on a paycheck is not fun for anyone. These dollars though go to pay for, among many other things:
- classrooms with a reasonable number of students in them,
- arts and sports programs,
- upgrades to school facilities to make them engaging and safe,
- new equipment in labs and shops,
- new and updated textbooks and other class materials,
- paying teacher salaries so the best and brightest can be recruited and retained (heck, in some districts they even struggle to afford the better and brighter),
- and keep the five-day school week.
And this doesn’t just happen in traditionally poor areas, nor is it a new problem. I grew up in a solidly working-class and middle-class town. Partway through my high school career the town was finally able to pass a measure to fund an addition for the high school so that classes could quit being held in makeshift classrooms, i.e. the ends of hallways, and there was a gym large enough to accommodate the whole student body. (About a decade before that the town’s middle school was able to get the money to build a brand new building, but only after large portions of the old one had been literally condemned–falling ceilings/floors and other small issues like that.) The textbooks that I used in senior physics, in addition to being held together by years of tape and the grace of God, described what the space shuttle might one day look like–that was just shy of twenty years after the shuttle had launched.
And my school was lucky then. As a teacher, I have friends across the country whose positions have been cut, who have had the class sizes in their remedial sections (and other sections too) increased to well over thirty students, and who have seen entire arts and sports programs disappear from their schools. Heck, the rural elementary school I attended was recently closed and combined with two other rural schools because the three were flat-out running out of money: Now, instead of traveling four or five miles to get to school, some kindergarteners travel twenty or more miles each way. And none of these budget-reducing measures touch on moves as serious as cutting school days.
All this goes to say that when your local school district says it needs more money, take them seriously. When you are writing that tax check to the state, when you see that bond measure on your ballot, when property taxes go up, think about where the money is going. Teachers and school districts will continue to educate students through fiscal shortfalls and cuts to their resources, but you can only tighten belts and budgets so far before the quality of the education our young people receive suffers.
Have a great day, and…
This Week’s Featured Product
National Poetry Month is almost here! Looking for projects to add to your poetry unit? Look no further! These four diverse projects work great in many different types of poetry units. They can be done completely in the classroom, completely on students’ own time, or any combination thereof. For more details or to download this product, click here!
This Week’s Journal Questions
For the teacher: Do you feel valued in your position? How so? If not, why? How doe you value those around you?
For the student: In what ways are you valued as a student? As a person? How do people show you that you have value?
A Recipe from My Kitchen
Orange-Blueberry-Pecan Bundt Cake with Orange-Vanilla Icing
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 3 cups sugar
- 5 eggs
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup blueberry yogurt (I use Greek yogurt, but regular will work too)
- zest and juice of one orange
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1 teaspoon orange extract
- 1 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
- 3 Tablespoons orange juice concentrate
- 2 Tablespoons half and half
- 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 or more cups powdered sugar
- Place rack in center of your oven and preheat to 325º.
- Grease and flour your bundt pan.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
- Alternately add flour mixture (three additions) and yogurt (two additions) to the butter mixture–i.e. flour, yogurt, flour, yogurt, flour. Beat well after each addition.
- Add zest, juice, and extracts. Beat well.
- Stir in pecans until incorporated.
- Pour batter into bundt pan and smooth top.
- Cook for 90 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
- Cool in pan for 30 minutes, then invert on wire rack, remove pan, and cool completely.
- Place cooled cake on your serving dish (cake plate, regular plate, etc.).
- With a stand or hand mixer, mix together orange juice concentrate and vanilla.
- Add 1/2 cup powdered sugar and stir until smooth.
- Add half and half and mix until combined.
- If you add the half and half with the orange juice, you risk curdling it.
- Continue adding powdered sugar and mixing until your icing is the desired consistency. I usually need between three and four cups sugar total.
- Drizzle over the cake.
- Here is where you add sprinkles (a necessary addition if you are baking with my daughter) or any other decorations.
- You can serve the cake now or wait until the icing hardens. Enjoy!