Jay Nixon, Democratic Governor of Missouri, has proposed extending the school calendar year for public secondary schools. This article will discuss the controversy surrounding this suggestion.
Currently, Missouri students only attend school 174 days each year, or 1,044 hours, both of which are lower than most states. To complicate the issue, this minimum includes half-days. In August 2011, the Education Commission of the States published a document listing the number of days and hours required for each state, which shows that Missouri is one of the lowest. Governor Nixon has proposed extending the school year to 180 days, which is typical in many states.
I initially heard about this controversy in a regional newspaper, which discussed the conversations of the board meetings in Mehlville School District. The press became very involved in this controversy, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Proponents list several advantages for extending the school year, with two gaining the most momentum. First, students will receive a better education. Hypothetically, an additional six days would lead to higher grades and test scores. Second, Missouri’s education system would be perceived as equal to other states, especially if test scores increased. Some parents also appreciate not having to find childcare for an additional week in the summer.
Opponents state several reasons to defuse the proposition. The largest opposition is money. Some teachers, (as discussed in the above article,) believe they should receive additional compensation for working more days. However, it is uncertain how these increases in salaries would be funded. Other opponents highlight that there is no guarantee that additional school days would lead to increased grades or test scores. Instead, they recommend using current school days more constructively. Some parents advocate that their children should enjoy their childhood, especially the summer, and not be forced to attend additional school days.
The Current Status
Teachers, parents, and administrators have been unable to reach a unified decision. Mehlville School District discussed the idea during several board meetings in the 2012-2013 school year. Large crowds of parents attended the meetings, expressing their passionate opinions. Ultimately, the idea was tabled, although it is still discussed ad nauseam in the St. Louis community. Other school districts have had similar experiences.
There are several reasonable advantages and disadvantages to Gov. Nixon’s plan. However, for now, the topic remains too controversial to reach an agreement on a local level. If elected officials want to enact this policy, they will have to discuss it as a statewide law.