Districts increase teaching time, all day kindergarten following funding boostScott Rothschild
New data in the KASB Calendar Survey for the 2017-2018 school year show several areas were increased school funding from the state may be having an impact. Not all districts have completed this year’s survey, so results could change.
Based on preliminary data, the length of the school year has increased for the first time in more than a decade. After declining by almost 10 days between 2002 and 2017, the average number of days for students increased this year by just over one-half day, from 167.5 to 168.2.
As the KASB report shows, there is considerable variation from the average by individual districts.
According to KASB Associate Executive Director Mark Tallman, the number of instructional days has likely been declining for two reasons. First, school operating budgets have lagged behind inflation since 2009, resulting in limited funding for teacher salaries. Average teacher salaries have fallen more than 8 percent below 2010 levels when adjusted for inflation. One trade-off with teachers has been to reduce the number of days worked.
The second reason is that shortening the number of days school is in session can save money on other operating costs, such as transportation, food service and utilities.
To make up for fewer school days, school districts have been increasing the length of the school day. With an increase in the number of days this year, the average length of the days dropped by one minute this year.
The 2017 Legislature appropriated more than $200 million in school operating aid for this school year, and another $100 million next year.
In addition to more days with students, the number of staff professional development days this year increased from 6.4 to 6.7, the highest number on record. The Legislature provided $2 million for professional development this year, after funding had been eliminated as part of state budget cutting.
Finally, full-day kindergarten programs saw the largest increase in recent years, jumping from 88 percent of kindergarten programs to 94 percent. Full-kindergarten programs are funded by the state for the first time this year. In the past, kindergarteners were counted as 0.5 students, regardless of whether they attended for a full day or only half a day.
In 2001-03, just 34 percent of kindergarten programs were full day. Districts increased full day kindergarten programs by using state at-risk funding, as authorized by the Legislature; reallocating funds from other areas; or charging fees.
Full day kindergarten funding now means districts can use at-risk funding other at-risk programs; shift funds to other priorities; or eliminate kindergarten fees.
The full KASB report provides extensive information on school districts calendars and scheduling patterns going back to 2002, and is available here. The KASB research department blog, available here, provides more detailed information on changes between this year and last year. And KASB Research Specialist Ted Carter explains the report here in a video.