The four-day school week (5×8 – 4/12/12)


Can 36 minutes a day make up for eliminating an entire school day? Burnsville may be about to find out, the Star Tribune reports today. The school district, in an attempt to cut its budget, may join some other school districts in shortening the school year, and have four-day weeks every other week.

A few other districts in the state have adopted a similar plan but Burnsville would be the largest and a couple of parents in the article are upset. People work for a living in Burnsville and who takes care of the kids in the off days?

A school board organization says parents will adapt. A superintendent in another district where it’s being tried says other relatives usually take care of kids there.

The school officials say it’ll comply with state law, parents are talking about who takes care of the kids, but nobody seems to be addressing a fundamental question: Does 36 minutes of education a day make up for one less day of education a week?

I’m not a big fan of newspaper website comments, but this is one story where you can get a good preview of upcoming school board meetings.

There’s one side:

So we are consistently behind other countries in academic performance and we want to shorten the week? To save money? Why don’t we NOT pay former administrative employees 250,000 dollars just to leave and instead invest more money in our students and their educators to put the US back in the place it belongs?

And there’s the other…

“That’s ridiculous if you work full time,” said Joy Smetanka, who has three children in the district. “Every other Monday? I wouldn’t do that.” — School is NOT day care. It is for education. You make it through summers just fine (presumably) so I expect you can make arrangments, even if it’s inconvenient. That said, this problem probably wouldn’t exist if politicians kept their grubby hands of money for education.

And, at least at last check, there isn’t a single comment regarding the impact on the quality of education or the way students learn. Oh, and there’s nothing about eliminating cherished high school sports.

Tampa just considered this question, and looked into the effects of the decision. In a 131-page report, researchers found nothing but bad…

Regardless, the cost cutting would bring no documented gains in student achievement, but would burden working parents with extra day-care costs and law enforcement with more crime. Sheriff’s Office statistics showed a potential jump of 5,000 calls for service annually that could be attributed to a four-day school week. The agency said it could need five additional deputies to respond to calls about juvenile disturbances, noise, suspicious activity, petit theft, criminal mischief and burglar alarms. In other words, trying to balance the school budget would add strain to the county government budget.

But some school districts in Georgia are thrilled with the money they’ve saved. Teachers kept their jobs. The burden fell on school bus drivers and cafeteria workers. And in Washington state, at least one official found a four-day week improves teacher morale.

Discussion point: How would you handle the change in your school district?


iPad owners got a bit of a reprieve from the guilt that may have came with the This American Life look at life inside the factory in China that makes them, when Marketplace reporter Rob Schmitz blew the whistle on that report. This week, Schmitz got a look for himself inside Foxconn and, absent the drama of the TAL piece, described a scene and a work life that could make iPad owners feel guilty if it were an American operation.

It’s late afternoon. Tens of thousands of workers stream out of the factory gates. Xiong Yefei walks slower than the others. She’s two months pregnant. It’s been a long day — her job is to clean iPad components with an alcohol solution; she says the fumes make her sick.

Xiong Yefei: A supervisor told me the fumes wouldn’t harm the baby, but I’d still like to be transferred to another part of the line. When I asked my supervisors, they said no. And now they’re making me work the night shift.

Xiong starts to cry. She says another pregnant woman on her line asked for a transfer and got it, why couldn’t she? The other woman, she says, was her supervisor.


There was another attempt this year in the Minnesota Legislature, are elsewhere, to require drug test for people who get welfare benefits.

Charlie Quimby, who writes the Across the Great Divide Blog (intelligent debate doesn’t get any better than when he and libertarian Craig Westover consider issues together), has been researching this in Colorado and in his latest post, it’s clear that we may not know who people on welfare are in the first place:

Welfare recipients are more likely to have significant physical or mental issues than they are to have serious drug issues. (A drug test indicates use, remember, not impairment, abuse or dependence.) One study found 19% of recipients had suffered from at least one of four psychiatric disorders (major depression, agoraphobia, panic attack and generalized anxiety disorders) within the previous year. One quarter of the adults receiving TANF aid in Colorado have one or more disabilities, according to the state. About 92% of the adult TANF recipients in this county are either single mothers or the head of their household.

Quimby also says, “If you’re on a moral crusade, believe 20% of poor people are dope fiends and are bad at math, you might like placing drug testing as another hurdle before they receive help from the taxpayers. If you know welfare has already been turned into a work program and think smoking a reefer in the last six weeks shouldn’t disqualify adults with kids from getting help through a rough patch, then you’re likely to see drug testing as an unnecessary indignity.”

The majority of welfare recipients in Minnesota, the Forest Lake Times says, are working at very low-income jobs, have serious health problems, are new mothers or are recently unemployed.


The smoking ban in Minnesota may be expanding slightly. A bill at the Legislature would prohibit smoking in the home if there’s a foster child living there.

“There’s always going to be that lifelong smoker that thinks it’s an invasion of their privacy,” said Randy Ruth, president of the Minnesota Foster Care Association, tells the Duluth News Tribune. His wife had cared for foster children for more than 40 years. “Personally, I would not object to it because I’m a lifelong nonsmoker.”


Now that more phone carriers are getting rid of “unlimited data,” you probably should know what a megabyte is.

Bonus I: Sometimes the things you think are ugly aren’t.

Bonus II: Marilyn Hagerty is back from rubbing elbows with the beautiful people of New York, which means a welcome return to writing about the food offerings of the Grand Forks area. Today: Free peanuts at Texas Roadhouse! If you thought Olive Garden was great….

Bonus III: To be a woman in Pakistan. Abuse, shame, and survival.


Prosecutors in Florida have announced that they are charging George Zimmerman with second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin. Today’s Question: What do you think of the authorities’ handling of the Trayvon Martin case?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Young voters in 2012.

Second hour: Why do we place less value on male friendships?

Third hour: Marion Nestle on ‘Why Calories Count’

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Jonah Lehrer, speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California about his book which is now the #1 New York Times best-seller. “Imagine” is about the science of creativity. Is it a gift, or can it be learned?

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: TBA

Second hour: Spouses negotiating retirement.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – This weekend, Freddie King will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you haven’t heard of him, you probably have heard his influence on generations of famous guitarists. He was an inspiration to Eric Clapton, B.B. King, Jeff Beck, and many others. NPR profiles the late guitar great.

A lot of Minnesota chefs are experimenting with savory uses of grains you might be more used to seeing at the breakfast table. Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl tells Tom Crann more and brings in recipes.