The major Sacramento newspaper provides some information about this proposal:
How would the cuts be made?
School board members could decide to shorten the year for their districts or not. Those that opt for a shorter school year would eliminate the equivalent of five instructional days, either in minutes or actual days.
Can you put the cuts in perspective?
Trimming the calendar by five days roughly translates to 3 percent of the school year, said Brian Stecher, an educational analyst with the Rand Education program.
"It's a relatively small cut, but on the other hand, if we saw academic gains of 3 percent across the state, we'd be very happy," Stecher said...
How would cutting school days save money, and how much?
Reducing the school year to 175 days would save on salaries and operational and maintenance costs. According to the California Department of Finance, the state's 1,000 districts could collectively save $1.1 billion.
When would the cuts go into effect?
During the 2009-10 school year.
Until I read this article, I thought these would be midyear cuts--in other words, I thought we'd lose a week this year. Now I learn it won't even be until next year. I could probably save up a week's pay if I have a year's notice, don't you think?
Not that I'd want to, of course. No one wants to take a pay cut. I certainly think that non-classroom expenses should be cut before the first dollar that affects a classroom does. But if the state could save a billion dollars by doing this--we're a couple dozen billion in the hole here, depending on whose numbers you believe. One billion dollars is not an insignificant amount.
Let's keep in mind we're talking about California, though. We must hear what the unions have to say.
Where do employee unions stand?
The California School Employees Association, which represents classified employees including custodians and office staff, and the California Teachers Association are opposed.
"Districts don't get to unilaterally abrograte (union) contracts," said Dave Low, assistant director of governmental relations for CSEA. "The governor is throwing out options that are pretty far-fetched in terms of their capacity to be implemented."
CTA President David Sanchez said in lieu of cutting the school year, his union is proposing a "Public School Investment and Accountability Act," which would create a 1 percent sales tax increase effective Jan. 1, 2010. If approved by the Legislature, it would generate between $5 billion and $6 billion a year for K-12 and community colleges.
So the CTA isn't willing to accept any cuts, and in fact wants to raise taxes on an already-strapped public.
Here's a thought: if the CTA is so worried about its teachers, maybe it could help them by buffering the loss of a week's pay. The CTA admits to spending about 1/3 of its money on expenses not related to collective bargaining or union organizing--that's the money it refunds to me each year (click on the agency fee label for more details on that). Perhaps the CTA could reduce all teachers' dues to the agency fee amount--that is, the amount that it claims is what is spends on collective bargaining and union organizing (even though in reality it spends less than it claims). Teachers would lose around $1000 in pay if the school year is shortened, but union dues could be reduced by $300 with no impact on CTA's stated mission.
That sounds smarter to me than trying to get a sales tax increase passed during a recession.
CTA won't do this, or course--they don't want to give up their money (that they don't earn) any more than I want to give up my money (that I do earn). So what might the result be?
Can districts shorten the year without agreement from unions?
It's illegal for districts to unilaterally impose a five-day furlough, said Ron Bennett, president of School Services of California, a leading nonpartisan think tank. But if unions don't agree to the furlough, their members may face layoffs.
Teachers unions don't really care about layoffs. Layoffs mostly affect new employees that, while dues-paying members, aren't tenured and can be fired anyway. The union will protect tenured jobs, and everyone will be happy--except the poor newbies who get canned. But them's the breaks, right?