School year could get longer if lawmaker gets his way

Four years ago during Furlough Friday’s at public schools, Hawaii students had the shortest school year in the U.S.

That number is now back to normal levels with 180 instructional days each year. But a bill before lawmakers would tack on 10 more days.

“It’s about the interaction of teacher and student. Clearly, having a longer school year would allow them to cover more things,” said Sen. David Ige (D) Pearl City, Aiea.

Sen. Ige’s measure would begin during the 2015-2016 school year and excludes charter and multi-track public schools.

He says longer school years have shown to increase student achievement.

“Any effort to lengthen school year would need to be phased in over time,” Sen. Ige said.

“Keep in mind, teachers already work 190 days, so this bill talks about increasing instructional days, so teachers would be looking at a 200-day calendar,” said Sen. Jill Tokuda, Education Chair.

Teachers, school health aides, and security would all be impacted, along with parents and students.

The Department of Education says the cost to extend the school year by 10 days is just under $6 million per day. That includes money for student transportation, school lunches, and utilities.

“I don’t know about that. That’s a lot of money,” parent Cheryl Josiah said. “It would be good, but people would be grumbling about the money worth and stuff like that.”

The teachers union says an increase to 190 days would require a change to teachers contracts. If that happens, the state will have to pay for them to stay more days.

“We’re willing to listen because if we’re talking about compensation for 10 days, we’d have to ask our membership to look into this,” Hawaii State Teachers Association President Wil Okabe said.

The bill was discussed on Friday in an education hearing and will be taken up again next week.

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