As we’ve previously reported, there are currently 61 Missouri public school districts that have made the transition to a four-day week. Based on projections provided by the Missouri Consortium of Four-Day Week Schools operated by the Missouri State University Department of Educational Leadership, that number is slated to spike to 83 districts in the 2020-2021 school year with at least a dozen more actively considering it.
What’s behind the sudden interest in four-day week schools? Simply stated, it’s money.
Nearly every one of the districts that have made the decision to make this transition struggles to make ends meet. Costs continue to rise and revenue continues to lag behind. Missouri public school districts, particularly those in rural or blighted areas, are dependent upon state lawmakers to provide the funding they need each year. For the past several years that simply hasn’t happened. Reserves are running low because they’ve had to dip into savings to pay for building repairs, transportation costs, and so on.
State requirements mandated by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) don’t cut cash-strapped districts any slack for student performance. Quite the contrary. All Missouri public schools are held to the same level of accountability, or they risk their accreditation and state funding. School districts are rated on multiple factors each year related to performance. Those ratings are then used to make comparisons from district to district. While money certainly isn’t a guarantee that all students will be successful, school districts must invest in instruction based on students’ needs. Data show comparable average expenditures per pupil between districts maintaining the traditional five-day week and those that have opted for the four-day week model:
However, the real eye-opener comes when we look at how four-day week schools match up to five-day districts in terms of operating cost:
But, what does this mean?
On average, there are two major takeaways based on the data:
- School districts invest comparable amounts of money to instruct students.
- Four-day week schools have significantly lower operating costs than those on the traditional five-day model.
Those districts that have higher operating costs also have streams of revenue from business and industry to make up for state funding shortfalls. That means they can absorb more of the costs for transportation and they can afford to pay their teachers more money. Therefore, they typically have less difficulty teacher recruitment and retention. These are two major reasons school district officials frequently cite when they consider becoming a four-day week school.
Based on current projections, it’s quite possible to see 100 out of the 518 school districts in Missouri shortening their school weeks to save money and to recruit and retain teachers. A question we have to ask is, “Would those districts be taking such drastic measures if the state legislature fully funded them each year?” OneMissouri thinks the answer is no.
One Missouri is committed to research, education, advocacy, and policy development on behalf of all Missourians.
Top Graphic Credit: alliesforchildren.org