OUR OPINION: Don’t shorten school year; too much good is at stake

Mississippi’s legislative train sometimes teeters on the racks and comes close to wrecking, but good sense and cool heads also often prevail and set the direction straight ahead at a reasonable, safe speed.

The House Education Committee teetered this week in considering a bill that would reduce the number of instruction days in the Mississippi school calendar from 180 to 175 based largely on Chairman John Moore’s allegations that teachers don’t teach and students don’t learn in the days before Christmas break and in the closing weeks of the school year.

The Legislature, of all entities, is not one to criticize doing nothing before setting its own business in order beyond seemingly idle hours wasted in full public view during the course of an annual session.

It would be unfair, of course, to say all legislators waste time and do nothing to further the state’s interests, including its schools, but clearly that is the case with some, just as surely as some teachers, in fact, waste time when teaching and learning should remain intense.

Chairman Moore said in Wednesday’s meeting that most teachers in Mississippi don’t teach students anything for the last weeks of the school year, or in the days before Christmas. He authored House Bill 75 to reduce what he claims are those do-nothing days – an overly broad generalization. The answer, if that is indeed the case in some instances, is not to reduce days but to make all days more productive.

The Education Committee could do better engaging engage the real issues: Adequate education funding, competitive teacher pay, sustained upgrades of technology for teaching, and loyalty to Mississippi’s public school children.

Thank goodness Moore’s bill stirred debate. Some legislators on the committee didn’t like the idea, so Moore asked that they ask their constituents at home what they think. When they do, we hope the response will be emphatic that Mississippi needs more days in school and more instructional time, not less.

Wednesday’s discussion ranked as unhelpful with a statewide mandate for a later school year start to please the tourism industry.

As few of Mississippi public schools’ critics ever acknowledge the highest-performing schools in the world all go to school more days than Mississippi and other American school systems. More days. More work. More knowledge. We should try it.