Schools Cut Back to Four-Day Week

Published October 9, 2008

With high energy costs increasingly eating up education budgets, schools around the country are considering four-day weeks to save money.

More than 100 schools nationwide have already made the switch to a four-day week, and numerous others are considering doing the same, according to an August 11, 2008 CNSNews article.

Rising gasoline costs for school buses and climbing electricity costs to heat and cool school buildings are taking an increasing amount of money away from core educational programs. With congressional moratoria locking up much of America’s vast domestic energy resources, there appears to be little hope of a return to affordable energy in the near future.

“For rural school districts where buses may travel 100 miles round-trip each day, there certainly are transportation savings worth considering,” said Marc Egan, director of federal affairs at the National School Boards Association.

One Size Not for All

Christian N. Braunlich, vice president of Virginia’s Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, said schools are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain current programs as energy prices usurp ever-greater amounts of school budget money. According to Braunlich, whether a four-day week works depends on location and other important background information.

“Among the variables are whether you’re a rural, suburban, or urban district, what kind of contracts you have with your employees, what kind of climate you’re in, the demographics of your student population, and whether nearby school divisions similarly cooperate when it comes to extracurricular activities and sports,” Braunlich explained.

“As a former school board member, I’ve learned that this likely isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution,” Braunlich said.

Parents Worry

Switching to a four-day school week can reduce a school’s overall costs by 5 to 10 percent. Kentucky’s Webster County School District saved roughly 4 percent on its total costs when it switched to a four-day school week in 2004, when energy prices were much lower, according to a July 24 Reuters report.

However, many parents are concerned school decisions driven by high energy prices will ultimately harm their children’s educational growth.

“What’s interesting about this story is that it points out just how inflexible government bureaucracies are. It’s always difficult to make any changes in the system,” said Sharon Harris, president of Advocates for Self-Government. “If we had more parental choice in education, we would immediately see the benefits. There would be more and quicker innovations and improvements.

“Families are different from each other, with different interests and different needs,” Harris added. “If we had a free market in education, we’d see many choices—not just in locations of schools but [also] in hours of operation and in curriculum.”


Krystle Russin ([email protected]) writes from Texas.