EDITORIAL: Don’t cut classes

By NEMS Daily Journal

The Mississippi House should defeat or allow to die in the Education Committee a bill, H.B. 1170, that would reduce the number of required classroom days through the 2011-2012 school year from 180 to 175. The Senate amended the bill last week to allow the reduction, based on assertions that it would save money without damaging academic integrity.
One legislator and some well-known educators irresponsibly claimed, without full knowledge of statewide school practice, that no teaching goes on during the last five days of school.
In the case of the former educators, that may be a sad truth for the way they ran schools, but it’s not correct statewide.
The same bill also authorizes mandatory, limited, unpaid furloughs for teachers and administrators, a proposition that should be separately considered on its merits, as supported by the Mississippi Board of Education’s Legislative Committee.
The proposed classroom day reduction sends all the wrong signals about Mississippi’s commitment to education. Decades of legislative and policy battles went into establishing the annual school year at 180 days in a state where an eight-month term once was widespread.
State board trustee Claude Hartley of Tupelo, who chairs the Legislative Committee, said in a letter to all legislators, “As you know, there is a greater emphasis on student achievement and accountability than there has ever been. Based on this factor and others, including national and international comparisons, now is certainly not the time to threaten the integrity of the classroom by reducing instructional days. While the ability to furlough all employees on non-instructional days will be an important tool for some school districts to survive budget cuts, reducing the school calendar may be viewed as an opportunity to reduce education funding …”
Hartley’s right.
The class-days reduction also is opposed by Gov. Barbour, State Superintendent of Education Tom Burnham, and House Education Committee Chairman Cecil Brown, D-Jackson.
Kill the proposed class-days reduction.
The furlough provision, which may be necessary in some districts for financial integrity, would be allowed at the “the discretion of the local school board … (for) all instructional, non-instructional and administrative employees … including the superintendent for not more than five days during the remainder of the 2009-2010 school year,” but taken only during days for professional development and not during classroom instruction days.
Furloughs would be extended into the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years.
Separate the issues; save the class days.