(Reuters) -- A Southern California school district where 92 percent of the students are Latino has extended its winter break an extra week, in part to give immigrant families time to travel home to Mexico and Central America for Christmas.
Officials in Santa Ana, a working-class city 40 miles south of Los Angeles that has long been a magnet for immigrants, say they decided to lengthen the school holiday after finding that many students were absent anyway.
I support this.
Here in California, at least, school districts get money from the state based on ADA--average daily attendance. If students are absent, the school district doesn't get any money for them. Excused, unexcused, it doesn't matter--not at school, no money.
In a school district where an overwhelming percentage of students are Hispanic, it only seems logical to accomodate a cultural habit (going "home" to visit family for Christmas) that's well known, predictable, and "accomodatable". So they go to school an extra week in June instead of in January--no harm done.
If the school district were 10% Hispanic and did this, perhaps I'd have a different view. I myself certainly wouldn't want to go to school an extra week in June, especially here in the exceedingly warm Central Valley of California. But in an overwhelmingly Hispanic area, and in an area where June temperatures aren't stifling, I see this extra week of vacation as a big plus. Here's an area where lefties and righties should both agree: the home culture is validated at no cost to educational opportunities.
When I was a student, we went to school Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. Honestly, that doesn't seem to pass the common sense test. So many people missed those two days due to "extended vacations" that teachers didn't usually plan meaningful instruction on those two days. In the district in which I teach, we get that entire week off--because so many people would take the whole week off anyway, and the school district would take a financial hit. The district accomodated the families, and gets more money in the process (or, more accurately, loses less money). The school district in Santa Ana has made a similar calculation, one I think is smart.