Don't just write off school days; Full year benefits students, even parents

March 14, 2014 

The cavalier attitude toward depriving Kentucky children of 10 days of school should dismay taxpayers and parents.

Yes, it's been an awful winter and it's not over yet.

At least seven of the 173 school districts already have missed six weeks of instruction or more because of roads made impassable by snow and ice.

But many children don't get enough to eat or have a safe place to stay on days when school is closed.

Parents, working one or two low-wage jobs to support families, aren't going to get any weather-related waivers and sure can't shorten their work calendars without financial penalty.

Conventional wisdom is that not much learning takes place after the barrage of standardized testing ends in the spring.

But in the hands of creative educators, time outside the shadow of testing could be a great opportunity.

Both chambers of the General Assembly are moving bills that would ease the process for waiving the requirement that schools provide at least 170 days or 1,062 hours of instructional time, allowing some districts to eliminate up to 10 days.

The public would have a lot more confidence if educators, lawmakers and Gov. Steve Beshear showed as much concern for children's welfare as they are showing for adults being able to firm up their vacation plans.

The traditional school calendar dates to an era when most Kentuckians lived on farms and were needed to work crops in the summer.

As Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, said, it's time to start thinking about year-round school, especially in rural places where children are falling behind because they live where school buses can't go for weeks during bad winters.

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