Schools are facing real challenges as they attempt to provide students a high quality education with greatly reduced revenue. Legislators and school officials are seeking ways to provide school districts some flexibility that will save money but protect instruction, and The Parents’ Campaign supports that effort. The Parents’ Campaign supports allowing school districts to furlough teachers and other district employees for up to five days and to reduce their salaries accordingly. The amendment to HB1170 requires that these furlough days be taken from the 7 staff development days that are included in teacher contracts, which we support. We also support allowing districts flexibility to reduce their local supplements. Both the furlough provision and the provision addressing local supplements have the potential to save school districts a considerable sum of money, thereby saving important teaching positions and programs.
A separate provision in the amendment to HB1170 allows school districts to reduce the number of instructional days in the school year from 180 to 175, but it does not allow schools districts to reduce salaries by those days. This provision would save school districts very little in the way of funding (transportation, utilities, etc.), but the effect on student achievement could be significant. Many Mississippi children struggle to master a year’s worth of subject matter in 180 days, and their teachers struggle to bring them to an appropriate level of achievement in that amount of time. Reducing the number of instructional days in the school year would be a disservice to children and to teachers, and The Parents’ Campaign is opposed to that provision, as are State Superintendent Dr. Tom Burnham and the State Board of Education.
Our children and their teachers are working hard to move student achievement in Mississippi to a level that will allow them to compete with their peers in other states and other countries. The last thing we need to do in Mississippi is to teach our children less. Until all of our children are reading, computing math problems, and otherwise performing academically at or above grade level, there clearly is more that needs to be taught and more that needs to be learned. Reducing the number of days that students are in school will result in lower student achievement and the associated lower school and school district accountability ratings.
The arguments that some are making in support of reducing instructional days put at risk the intergrity of our education system as well as funding for K-12 for the coming year and for future years. We have worked hard to get legislators to support adequate funding for schools, arguing, appropriately, that these resources are vital if we are to bring students to a successful level of achievement. Suggesting that a week of teaching makes no difference in student achievement is simply wrong, and it is counterproductive to everything we have worked hard to achieve to improve the education provided our children.