Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Four-day weeks: the practicalities.

My child is not even 2 and I am already looking forward to his public education starting—not just because he’ll, like, learn stuff, but also because I will save a lot on child care costs. Sorry if that sounds crass, but there you have it.

Were Milo’s school district to go from five days a week to four, though, I could figure out a way to get him cared for on that odd day. Many more people are not that lucky and absolutely depend on public school to keep their children enriched and protected while they work. Technically, I suppose this Illinois House move toward allowing four-day weeks can’t be challenged academically, because the same amount of school hours would be required each year. (Still, it does fly in the face of a continued push for expanded learning time by a former colleague of theirs, last name Obama.)

What mystifies me about this is how these legislators think six-year-olds will spend their, say, Fridays if they are not in school. No matter your politics, you know this is a fact: Most of their parents will be at work. High school kids can fend for themselves (oooh, now THAT should make for good stories), but elementary schoolers? For anyone but the affluent, child care options are generally sorry as it is. The nonprofits I know of who in normal times might be able to fill the void aren’t doing any better than the school districts these days when it comes to funding. Perhaps it is an opportune opening for the companies fearful about losing SES dollars in the reauthorization?

Four-day weeks have been going on in various spots around the country, but the stories I have been able to find address more of the fun side of things—the new allure of $10-a-day skating rinks, arts classes—than what people do who cannot afford, or transport their children to, those kind of activities. Journalists whose districts are considering four-day weeks should ask questions of locales that already have them. Did officials assess day care capacity before they cut the school week, particularly in the rural locales who seem most apt to adopt this approach? What are younger, less affluent children doing on those days off?

1 comment:

  1. That's just it, Ceolaf. I'm *trying* to point out that school folks can't have it both ways. They can't be highly respected educators who are valued for their expertise if they keep their jobs mostly because the lower classes need somewhere to warehouse their children.

    In my opinion, those two issues NEED to be differentiated. Schools are not parents. It is insulting to both the school AND the parent to imply otherwise.

    Charity is CERTAINLY a virtue, and there are ways the state and private entities can be creative with providing for childcare. I'm just saying parenting ought not be a *function* of education. Quoting Marx as justification for the state's ever-increasing involvement with families is at least more honest treatment of the issue than I've been reading in various media stories. :)