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Longer school days? Where’s the money?

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POSTED September 29, 2009 4:17 a.m.

President Obama thinks that keeping kids in their seats might just be the education reform this country needs.

But at least one Manteca teacher isn’t quite sure that his kids could stand to stay in their seats any longer than they already do.

With that the Commander-in-Chief believes that students today spend too little time in the classroom. Coming this week, those involved in education at the local level who have had to deal with the crippling economic blow that is still digging into coffers, aren’t quite sure that the concept of longer school days and shorter vacations – while maybe a good theoretical idea – is currently feasible.

“We need to prepare our students to be able to compete in a global economy, and that’s just the reality of education in America today,” said Manteca Educators Association President Ken Johnson. “I think that the idea sounds good theoretically, but practically something like that is going to take some serious money and that’s something we just don’t have right now.”

The Manteca Unified School District is still battling a deficit that started at more than $25 million and having to layoff teachers and classified staff in order to come close to meeting the financial goal of staying solvent. It is something that remains a challenge for district administration that continues to receive financial blows from Sacramento.

According to Trustee Nancy Teicheira, the hole that Manteca Unified finds itself in might be a place that the brass needs to get comfortable with.

“We had a representative go to a conference and some people believe that these cuts are going to continue maybe even three more years,” she said. “If Obama wants to give us the money to do something like that then great, but right now every penny in the district and then some is spoken for.”

Last week United States Education Secretary Arne Duncan noted that the current school schedule that is incorporated across the nation is based “upon the agrarian economy” and isn’t practically applicable by today’s standards. She’s advocating the President’s stance on a longer school day and a shorter summer that he admitted wouldn’t be “wildly popular ideas.”

But Johnson worries that maybe there’s a point of oversaturation for a generation of students that have grown accustomed to a particular school schedule.

“I know that as an everyday teacher that at the end of the day my kids are just fried – I don’t think you could add another hour onto that and get anything productive out of that,” he said. “There might come a point where you’re just having them in the classroom without getting the intended benefits that this outlines.

“On the surface it sounds like a good idea, but in reality I’m not so sure that it could immediately work. It might be good rhetoric, and maybe it’ll bring the issue of education reform and preparing our children to the forefront.”

To contact Jason Campbell e-mail jcampbell@mantecabulletin.com, or call (209) 249-3544.

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