Cautious cutbacks

Friday, November 14, 2003

While local school districts are finding ways to cope with tight budgets and new federal education standards, schools across the country are facing the same money problems.

Some are trying out changes designed to save costs, but the question is whether the benefits outweigh the problems.

For example, some schools in at least 11 states have adopted four-day schedules. By cutting down on transportation costs, substitute teachers and utilities, these schools hope to save money. One district in Kentucky thinks it will cut 2 percent from its annual budget with the reduced schedule.

But not all parents are happy. Many parents are having to make arrangements for day care for young children on the extra day when there is no school. This is an expense and inconvenience some of these families can't afford.

One district said it went to the four-day schedule rather than cut extracurricular activities. It will take some time to see what effect the shorter school week has on academic performance, but it may turn out that bringing students up to the U.S. government's new proficiency standards is more crucial than after-school activities.

It will be important for districts to focus on the core programs of public education as they make cuts to stay within spending limits.

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