Shortened academic year too risky

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has lacked the leadership California has needed for more than five years. When the “Governator” entered office in 2003, he inherited enormous debt. His efforts to minimize this debt proved futile when overspending skyrocketed California into a whopping $42 billion debt.

While Cal State Long Beach students have felt the negative impacts of budget cuts through rising tuitions and frozen admissions, youngsters are feeling the effects as well. Our beloved governor has proposed cutting five days from the K-12 academic school year, saving California $1.1 billion — but at what cost?

Surely, five days seems minimal and unimportant for parents who pay for childcare outside of the schooling system. However, California ranks low in comparison to other states that fund education more generously. According to the California Federation of Teachers, California “has some of the most overcrowded classrooms and the greatest shortages of librarians, school nurses, counselors and other critical support staff in the nation.”

This lack of educational funding is negatively affecting California and America’s youth. The less time spent in the classroom, the less education they receive. According to the Los Angeles Times, advocates have been encouraging 200-220 school days, rather than the current 180-day year.

The University of Michigan conducted a study comparing strengths and weaknesses between Chinese and American educational systems. The Chinese system promotes equality in the classroom by eliminating the tracking system altogether. Additionally, a strenuous work ethic promotes student success. These factors, combined with extra school days, contribute to the consistent number of high school graduates that contrast U.S. rates.

While the U.S. maintains its reputation for prestigious universities, it all means nothing without properly preparing the youth for higher education. In order to do that it is essential that students maintain their current school days, or increase them dramatically to improve graduation rates.

Schwarzenegger’s proposal remains optional for districts at the moment. In all likelihood the affluent institutions will remain open while schools serving minorities will not. Schools that cater to low-income students tend to gain less revenue, which will likely result in their inability to afford the five extra days.

It is important to consider the educators themselves and how this five-day cut will affect their lives. According to the L.A. Times, this proposal would require renegotiations with teachers unions, as well as pay cuts for the teachers themselves. The Los Angeles Unified School District sent 2,300 lay-off notices in one week alone to cope with the budget crisis.

The cut proposes one last pitfall — what will children do on these five days off? Schools keep children out of trouble, especially those who reside in precarious communities. By eliminating five days, children are exposed to the dangers that surround their neighborhoods. Schools do not only serve as educational institutions, but as safe havens for students.

Understandably, California is undergoing its worst year fiscally; however, students should not suffer because of the irresponsible spending of authoritative figures. The last thing children need in today’s economic climate is fewer days of school.

Angela Rivera is a junior journalism and Chicano/Latino Studies major and a contributing writer for the Daily Forty-Niner.

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