Losing Summer?

ImageEvery summer there is a legislative push to lengthen the public school year in the United States. Education is an area in which the United States lags behind many of its counterparts, and many legislators attribute that to length of the school year.

President Obama has repeatedly called for a longer school year, arguing that countries such as Korea have school years of up to 220 days (compared to 180 in the US). “That month makes a difference. It means students are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer … The idea of a longer school year, I think, makes sense,” Obama said. “Now, that’s going to cost some money… but I think that would be money well spent.” The President acknowledges that money in and of itself is not the solution to the problem, but it is certainly necessary: “We can’t spend our way out of it … money without reform will not fix the problem.” The President is clearly aware that the budget is the root of the education debate in America. 

Research done by the Rand Corporation suggests that longer summers negatively affect low-income students more than their peers due to a lack of access to educational programs during that time. Because of this, many Congressional Democrats agree with the President on the issue of lengthening the school year. Congressional Republicans, on the other hand, argue that this will be doing exactly what the President claimed he was trying to avoid: throwing more money at the problem.

Although many experts agree that a shorter school year is the reason for the US lagging behind other countries in education, extending the school year would not be simple. In order to avoid spending more money – Congress’ main concern – public schools in the US would have to increase class size by 3.3 students if the school year were to be extended 30 days, according to Matthew Chingos of the Brookings Institution. This is something Congressional Democrats should consider before advocating for a shorter summer, as they have repeatedly vowed to decrease class sizes in order to improve student performance.

Furthermore, there are many summer opportunities for students to improve their education outside of the classroom, such as camps, jobs, internships, and community service, which benefit children in a way that cannot be matched in the classroom. These chances could be lost if the school year was extended, thereby decreasing the chances for students to become more well rounded, active members of society.

The battle between Congressional Democrats and Republicans over performance versus the budget only captures a small segment of the debate surrounding a shortened summer for US public schools. While students around the country would surely be upset if they had fewer days of freedom in the warm months of summer, more days of school could benefit American students in the long run, potentially allowing them to catch up to their international peers.

Jeremy Tudin


5 responses to “Losing Summer?”

  1. legprocess says :

    I think the debate of a longer school year is a very interesting one. Many argue that a longer school gives students more days in the classroom which will obviously enhance their education. I believe, though, that so much of what we learn as children and teenagers happens outside of the classroom. My mom always used to say “learning is 30% academic and 70% social”, but I think it’s true. Our country’s children don’t just need to be more educated students, but more educated people. While this is clearly not an option on the table, I think more school/government sponsored summer programs could be just as beneficial.

    — Maddie J

  2. legiprocess says :

    This sounds like a largely ideological debate, like you said. Republicans balk at spending more money, and lengthening the school year would mean decreasing the quality of education per period of time if funding were to stay the same. Democrats, on the other hand, see the potential to normalize the effect of summers between low-income students and their peers. There are less tangible benefits and costs to a longer year, though. Teachers use the break to get training, and a shorter summer might impact that. On the other hand, children tend to forget some of what they learn after months of not using it. I wonder if those factors play into lawmakers’ thinking on the issue, or if it’s just more partisan politics?

    – Will

  3. Brian Lash says :

    I think that we need to focus more on the quality of education before the quantity of education. There is no point in having students learn at a lower level for a longer period of time. Ideally though there should be quality education for a bit longer but this seems pretty hard to obtain. I understand that pretty much every way to improve education involves spending more money, but I think that it is worth it. In my opinion spending on education is essential to our governments sustainability and I believe the education budget to reflect that.

  4. Kate says :

    This debate shows the importance of ideology in the two parties and raises the question of what the ideal education system would look like. Even if Congress were able to unanimously agree on what the best education plan was, they don’t have the benefit of testing their proposed solutions. And because the legislative process is slow, it is hard to integrate feedback on how their education plan works in a timely manner.

  5. legiprocess says :

    I think this debate is one that can easily bridge the gap between parties. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are particularly known for being for or against a longer summer holiday. Because of the proposal’s lack of entrenched ideological differences and potential large impact, this could be one area of agreement in future education reforms.

    -Jenny Wu

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: