Shutting down public schools one month early a possibility as state wrestles with budget deficit
SACRAMENTO—The concept of closing schools a month early is on the table as legislators continue to seek ways to reduce the state’s $17-million budget deficit.
The discussion comes as President Obama has pushed for longer school years, concerned that U.S. students are losing ground to their counterparts around the world.
Children in frigid areas have “snow day” school closures. Could students across sunny California face “budget days” in bad fiscal times?
Gov. Jerry Brown and school officials warn that shutting down school one month early — a loss of 20 instructional days — is a real possibility next year without an extension of higher taxes. Some see Hawaii, which slashed 17 days in 2009-10, as an example that drastic measures are possible.
But there remain significant hurdles to imposing a month-long closure in California, particularly getting approval from teachers’ unions and lawmakers. Republicans suggest that Democrats are raising the possibility as a scare tactic.
In the past two years, most California school districts have reduced their schedules below the 180-day calendar that was standard here in the previous decade and remains the norm nationwide.
No legislative proposal exists, but Orange County Superintendent of Schools William Habermehl said his 27 districts are talking about the option, whether it means a shorter school year or four-day weeks.
The Corona-Norco Unified School District in Riverside County was one of those that reduced its school year to 175 days, the state minimum.
“As terrible as it might be, I would advocate for a shorter year with a quality school program rather than a longer year and a decimated program that has morale at its all time low,” Corona-Norco Superintendent Kent Bechler testified at the state Capitol last month. “I think a 160-day school year is not out of the question.”
The Democratic governor is expected to outline deep cuts as he revises his budget in two weeks, when he will likely explain his alternate vision should Republicans block taxes to balance the remaining $15.4 billion deficit.