Longer School Day Enters School Reform Talk

By: Kathleen Haughney, The News Service of Florida
By: Kathleen Haughney, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, December 10, 2010 --

A push for struggling schools to lengthen the school day may become a part of a larger education reform debate that lawmakers have hinted will be a major part of the spring 2011 legislative agenda.

Key lawmakers in the Senate and House have already said that a revamped proposal on teacher merit pay that was vetoed by outgoing Gov. Charlie Crist last spring will be on the table and Democrats have signaled they are interested in talking about the issue. But it’s possible that at least in the Senate, education committees will entertain a measure to extend the school day by one hour for the state’s lowest performing schools.

Newly elected State Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, who previously served in the House, has told fellow lawmakers, including Senate Prek-12 Chairman Sen. Steve Wise, R-Jacksonville, that he intends to file a bill extending the school day, and Wise said he is interested in taking it up in committee.

“I will take it up and then let him and the appropriations committee worry where the funding’s coming from because I think it’s essential that we start out with that and do something along those lines,” Wise said following his committee’s first meeting in Tallahassee this week.

The Prek-12 Education Appropriations Committee, which Simmons chairs, would likely be the first stop for any measure related to a longer school day because of the potential fiscal impact. Simmons’ chairmanship of the committee would likely ensure passage of the bill as long as he can develop a funding mechanism for the bill. It would then likely go to Wise’s committee for consideration.

“If you’re an ‘F’ school, then I would highly endorse doing that and maybe that’s kind of what we do,” Wise said.

The Florida Department of Education released its grades of Florida public schools earlier this week, on an A through F scale. The grades are half based on students’ performances on the state’s standardized exam. According to the department, 140 schools earned an “A,” 192 earned a “B,” 69 earned a “C,” 58 earned a “D” and 11 earned an “F.”

Simmons’ proposal, which has not yet been filed, would target the lower schools.

"In a period of about five years, they'll end up having an extra year of schooling," he told the News Service earlier this month.

State Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, who is also the director of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, said he has not had any extensive discussions with Simmons about the bill and the association has not been discussing about it either. As a lawmaker and former Leon County Superintendent though, he wants to see a proposal extending the school day advance.

“Superintendents in general support any effort to increase the amount of time that students are in class and before teachers,” Montford said.

In Volusia County, low performing schools have been experimenting with a longer school day for more than 10 years said Volusia Teachers’ Organization President Andrew Spar. It started as a voluntary program, but now it is a part of teachers’ contracts. The teachers receive additional pay for a school day that is an hour longer.

“The day is just an hour longer, so that way the teachers have more time because one of the problems we run into is they just don’t have enough time to get things done,” he said.

Mark Pudlow, a spokesman for the Florida Education Association, said that if the matter does advance, the union would support if it operated like the system in the Volusia County schools where teachers are paid for the extra time.

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  • by Did they think about... on Dec 14, 2010 at 05:24 AM
    ...the extra cost for longer days? Utilities and other associated costs? Schools are being blamed for what is the parents responsibility. Too many parents are lazy or "to busy" to spend time with their child to teach them morals, values, read to them and help them with homework. Because of this it falls on the schools which is not right.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2010 at 03:35 AM
    To the poster who whined about "how hard we're driving young minds": just stop. Stop trying to sell people on the plight of the youngster. The REASON the current generations are (for the most part, as I KNOW there are exceptions, so don't jump my post for being all-encompassing) lazy, under-educated, and flooding the minimum-wage arena right now is because they are NOT being driven enough! Not being held accountable for anything. Not be pushed to be better people than they are. Our youth is being cheated by the adults in charge right now who are being soft and politically correct. There is an epidemic of "let's be friends" going on with our youth, but these kids don't need friends - they need authority. And one way to take that back is to set goals and guidelines in our education system (like longer school days and better pay for our educators) and implement them and stop coddling the current generations! Wake up, people.
  • by Anonymous on Dec 14, 2010 at 02:19 AM
    The length of school hours has nothing to do with the success and graduation rates. The government has dumbed down our schools in the name of political correctness, therefore, our education standards are lackng on an international level. Bottom line.
  • by TRUTH Location: FL on Dec 13, 2010 at 01:28 PM
  • by Teresa Location: Tallahassee on Dec 13, 2010 at 10:19 AM
    More time in school and less homework doesnt' sound bad. Bring back traditional vocational style classes, they help a student who isn't scholastically inclined to decide on an alternate training. P.E. needs more time too.
  • by Union Boss Location: on my yacht, oops, in my office on Dec 13, 2010 at 09:23 AM
    Attention fellow thugs....this is great! We can lobby for additional funding due to the extended day. Of course, the dues may go up slightly but, hey, I need to get paid too. I'm lookin' out for ya! Signed, Your Thug in Chief.
  • by Future Teacher Location: Tallahassee on Dec 13, 2010 at 09:08 AM
    I would just like to add as a future teacher, mother, and life long resident of Florida that I agree that schools performing poorly may benefit from longer class days but the curriculum will need to be changed to give these students more hands on and other types of learning techniques. Asking these children to sit at those desks all day and work is not building helping their physical development not their social. They need to get up get acitve and get involved. We are so worried about being the smartest we are beginning to be the dumbest. WHo cares if we are the smartest in the world. Let's just be smart and that invovles being to build and fix things not just read and write and work on the computer. What happened to shop and automotive? Kids need these back. Everyone is not going to be a doctor or lawyer. He need people able to build, grow, and repair. Your job does not define you but how u do that job will. God Bless Florida, it's residents, government, and our children.
  • by Billo Location: Tally on Dec 13, 2010 at 08:09 AM
    It doesn't matter how long the school day is if the parents aren't actively involved in their child’s academia. Otherwise, longer days will just be an extended daycare.
  • by Tallahassee on Dec 13, 2010 at 07:41 AM
    We have a whole generation now who can't think their way out of a situation. Kids need time to learn to think, not be directed every minute of every day so much that they are nothing but robotons. These people graduating from college and setting the standards may have a piece of paper but they are pretty darn stupid.
  • by Stephen Location: Tally on Dec 13, 2010 at 07:38 AM
    Want to bring up the grades of each school. It is simple. 1-get federal government UNinvolved. 2-get State government UNinovled 3-make parents get INvolved. Waht is one difference in charter schools and public schools that stand out. Parental involvement. Extending the days won't help. A lot of the kids don't want to be there 5 hours, what makes you think they want to stay an extra hour?
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