Four-day school weeks are a sign of the decline in Minnesota’s ability to provide a quality, or even an adequate, education to our students.
Lake Superior School District was recently approved to begin offering a four-day week this school year. The district, which covers about 2,500 square miles, anticipates saving as much as $250,000 in transportation costs.
The problem lies not in the Lake Superior district offices, but in the Capitol in St. Paul. Since 2003, state aid to schools has dropped an inflation-adjusted 14 percent. Minnesota 2020 has calculated the underfunding suffered by each district in the state. With nowhere to turn, school districts began looking to the four-day school week. In 2008, MACCRAY became the first recent Minnesota district to start a four-day week, followed last year by Blackduck, Warroad and Ogilvie. St. James started a four-day week last winter. In addition to Lake Superior, Clearbrook-Gonvick, Onamia, North Branch and A.C.G.C. will start next fall. Pelican Rapids has an application with the Minnesota Department of Education to begin a four-day week in September.
To be approved for a four-day week by the state, the district must show that no education time will be lost, usually by extending the length of the four school days.
Some school districts examined the four-day week and found it wanting. Crookston, Norman County East, Rush City, Yellow Medicine East, Le Sueur-Henderson and Southland all considered and rejected the four-day week last spring.
There is no proven educational benefit to the four-day week. The four-day schedule is a retreat away from offering an adequate education and is a clear indication of financial desperation. Schools do not receive enough money from the state to provide a quality education. Minnesotans should be ashamed that the backbone of our society – a quality education – has been eroded to the point that something as simple as student transportation is a casualty in the name of political expediency.
Minnesota 2020 is tracking school districts that have implemented a four-day school week, plan to begin a four-day week or are considering the idea. You can look at the map here.