Governor makes good point on school calendar

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gov. Dave Heineman's designation of education as a priority for the coming years is appropriate, especially because he coupled it with economic growth and governmental efficiency.

It's especially fitting in light of the state's precarious fiscal condition that Heineman didn't propose simply throwing money at the educational system in hopes that it improves.

While acknowledging that Nebraska already has an effective educational system, the governor touted new graduation requirements of four years of English and three years of math, science and social students. Those are vital changes if Nebraska graduates are to be able to compete in the future.

Also important, as Heineman noted, are opportunities to learn at home, increased parental involvement, quality teachers and administration, and the creation of a new "virtual high school" will take advantage of technologies tailor-made for widely-scattered Nebraska students.

Those technologies weren't even dreamed of years ago when the state's educational system was created -- a factor Heineman also cited in calling for a re-examination of the school calendar.

" ... Nebraska needs to reform its school day and school year," Heineman said. "The needs of students have changed dramatically during the past century, yet our American education system continues to rely upon a 100-year-old school calendar. School districts need to examine their current school day and school year with a focus on increasing learning opportunities. School leaders and parents must work together to develop effective strategies to use time more effectively."

The governor makes a good point; student minds and school facilities are too valuable to allow them to lay idle for months at a time. Implementation of some type of year-round school would make better use of both.

Accomplishing that with a "redirection of current financial resources at the school district level, including diverting resources from lawyers and lobbyists to the classroom," as Heineman said, will be the tricky part.

But doing so without increasing taxes that make the state less desirable for individuals and businesses, is vital.

Otherwise, without an improved economy and the jobs that come with it, those better-educated Nebraska graduates will seek greener pastures and the state's brain drain will continue.

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  • Few would argue the value of education. A concern with the proposal however, as most things, is funding. McCook is set to have a reduction of nearly a half a million dollars in state aid. A longer school year is needed to maintain competition with other industrial nations but it would come at a price. The focus should be on core subjects but does that mean art, ag and athletics are cut? The State has to balance it's budget and the revenue isn't there to increase state aid to education. Will the local taxpayers approve higher taxes to provide the services they want their children to receive? If a raise in local taxes is not in the cards, what cuts are recommended? The school board and administration has a plan in place to help reduce future costs by replacing vetran staff members with less experienced/less expensive teachers or not replacing those who leave. Eitherway those who remain will be ask to do more with less. One other consideration regarding the loss of state aid for McCook--which in large part was redirected to the East and the Omaha/Lincoln area schools--is that our local community loses an half of a million dollars that could have been spent on local jobs, salaries and local purchases. It is good that our citizens follow the national failing economy but we need to be more watchful on the state and local level where education funding is the largest part of how our tax dollars are spent.

    -- Posted by dennis on Mon, Jan 18, 2010, at 8:27 AM
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