How About a Longer School Year?

February 24, 2012 - By admin

Commentary

FEB. 24, 2012

By JOHN SEILER

One reason California schools perform so poorly is that the state’s educrats, instead of improving instruction, commonly look for gimmicks to cover up their own failures. In my 25 years of writing about Golden State schools, one recurring “reform” is to lengthen the school year. Supposedly the Korean or the Chinese or the Liechtensteinian kids learn better because they go to school for many more weeks than America’s kids, who during the summer months are left to roam the streets joining gangs.

That’s just the theme sounded Thursday by Bill Habermehl, the Orange County superintendent of education during his annual Orange County of Education address. According to the Orange County Register, he said, “We need to find new ways to compete with countries like Japan, Korea and China, where students are going to school for 200 to 220 days a year…. We are going in the wrong direction. At a time when we need to make schools more challenging, we’re cutting school day,” because of budget cuts. He wants to add another 15 school days. That’s three weeks. Throw in the July 4 holiday and a couple of teacher preparation days, and that’s another month of schooling.

It makes you wonder how America became the world’s premier industrial power when our kids spent all summer cutting each other up in “West Side Story” switchblade fights.

I reported on Habermehl back in 2010, in an editorial I wrote for the Orange County Register, “Study: School budgets not being cut.” Subhead: “Story Highlights: Expenditures outpaced inflation since 2003-04. O.C. superintendent questions results.” The editorial was based on exhaustive study by Steven B. Frates and Michael A. Shires of  the Davenport Institute at Pepperdine University.

Instead of looking at school districts’ publicized budgets, the scholars examined budget data actually sent to the state. This is crucial because, whereas publicized budgets can contain fiction, it’s illegal to send incorrect numbers to the state. The study found that, instead of being cut as the educrats claimed, school budgets had risen.

I called Habermehl about the discrepancy. I wrote about his response:

“William H. Habermehl, Orange County’s superintendent of schools, said his staff is examining the study and its conclusions, but at first blush, he told us, ‘The study just doesn’t make sense to me. There’s faulty analysis on their part.’ He noted the estimates of O.C. district cuts were deepest in the period following the study. ‘Our school districts have never been flush with cash. We never get as much as other districts’ because Orange County is a donor county. He added, ‘Our books are open. Our districts have always been prudent in how they spend their money’.”

But later, he said his staff had not time to do any further checking.

So, basically he has no idea what’s going on financially with Orange County schools. And when I wrote about budgets at the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second biggest district in America, they also had no idea what was going on financially.

Pathetic Test Scores

Meanwhile, California schools continue to score near the bottom of the 50 states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.  On the 2011 NAEP, California scored 46th among the states in fourth-grade reading, 49th for eight-grade reading, 46th on fourth-grade math and 48th on eight-grade math.

If California’s once top-flight schools have fallen so far behind other states, which have school years of the same length, how could another two weeks of the same incompetence improve matters? Maybe we’ll improve to 45th.

Habermehl and other extra-school-days boosters also ignore that it’s precisely America’s long school break that has contributed to our creativity. American kids spend the long summers playing, reading, inventing, dreaming. They go on long vacations with their families to “See the USA in Your Chevrolet,” as beautiful Dinah Shore urged us. The kids get to see more of this great country of ours.

That’s just what my family did in 1964. My father bought a new Chevy Impala for $2,000. With Mom as co-pilot and three kids fighting in the back seat, we drove from Michigan to California and back. I kept a diary, since lost, some of my first writing in what would become a career in journalism. I read everything I could in the maps, pamphlets and books we got at Yellowstone, Yosemite, Redwood and other parks. We went to Disneyland, Knotts Berry Farm and the since closed Marineland of the Pacific. I loved California and always wanted to move here, which I did.

And back home summers, we kids in those days spent most of the day outside playing, unsupervised. We learned how to govern ourselves, improvising rules in our endless baseball games.

Would I have been better off cooped up back in Elliott Elementary school?

And how about guys like Bill Gates and the late Steve Jobs? If you read their biographies, they started out monkeying around with technology in their spare time and summers, dreaming the future they created.

Where’s the Money?

Habermehl said the federal government isn’t paying schools what they’re owed. “If the federal government just pays us what we’re entitled to, then we can use the savings to pay for these reforms,” he said.

But the federal government is $15.4 trillion in debt. And another $1.3 trillion is being added this year. Where’s the money supposed to come from?

Yet, before the immense federal funding — and meddling control — of recent years, schools in California and elsewhere performed much better.

Moreover, if Habermehl needs more money, there are two sources: One is to cut back generous teacher salaries, perks and pensions, which average the highest in the nation, at $59,825. (See this list. Click twice on “average salary.”)

Or how about eliminating bureaucratic bloat, such as the duplicative county departments of education — beginning with Habermehl’s own Orange County Department  of Education. Any functions the county departments are doing easily could be shifted to the local school districts, slashing administrative bloat and waste.

California’s kids deserve better than the near-rock bottom education they’re  getting now. And they deserve refreshing, innovative summers off.

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments(31)
  1. Beelzebub says:

    Habermehl was on PBS Socal the other night. The host asked him if he could change one thing in the school system what would it be? Naturally the answer was that he needed more M-O-N-E-Y!!!

    Seriously, when has more money ever solved the problems in the K-12 school system? The more they collect the faster they waste it. Money never correlates to better scores or smarter graduates. If money was the answer LAUSD would have a 90% graduation rate.

    Oh, and Habermehl blamed the prisons for taking his school money. heh. When the money starts to run out the infighting starts.

  2. Beelzebub says:

    Who’s the kid with the Beatle cut???

    Looks like a potential trouble maker. :)

  3. eck says:

    Why the (bleep) are we “entitled” to a school payment from the federal government?? It’s our money anyways. Does he refer to the fact(?) that California is a “donor” state – sends more to DC than it gets? That makes some sense but is a perfect example why the feds shouldn’t even be in the education business. ABOLISH the DEPT. of EDUCATION!!! (My battle cry).

  4. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    money was the answer LAUSD would have a 90% graduation rate.

    I worked for a feeder middle school to Compton High School, their graduation rate was 20%-I am not kidding. And Compton HS is a pretty nice school……

  5. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Oh, and Habermehl blamed the prisons for taking his school money. heh. When the money starts to run out the infighting starts.

    Totally false.

    Over HALF of this states budget goes to K-12 under Prop 98, and that has not changed for over 20 years. The prisons stole money from the community colleges, CSU and UC systems which USED to receive around 13% of the states budget 30 years ago and prisons were receiving 3%. Today the CC, CSU and UC receive 7.5% of the budget and prisons get around 12%. Nice scam, hugh!

    Prisons stole the money from the CC, CSU and UC systems/colleges.

    Let me ask you something, where is the better bang for the tax dollar buck, educating the young men and women of this state with AA, Bachelor and Masters degrees or paying GED prison dork guards $250K per year in compensation???????????????????

  6. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Is that Steve Jobs??? In the pic??

  7. Beelzebub says:

    “I worked for a feeder middle school to Compton High School, their graduation rate was 20%-I am not kidding. And Compton HS is a pretty nice school……”

    I heard that teachers get premium pay for agreeing to teach at the high-risk schools like Compton HS. Is that true?

    And many people believe that the reason for the poor performance in schools like Compton HS is that they are underfunded. But I heard the opposite – that high risk schools actually get bigger budgets per student, better equipment and nicer facilities – like swimming pools, state of the art gymnasiums, etc… Is that true?

    It must be totally demoralizing for a teacher to see only 2 of every 10 students graduate.

  8. Beelzebub says:

    Hey, did you see this?

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2012/02/24/bloomberg_articlesLZVDRL1A1I4J01-LZX3S.DTL#ixzz1nNIavpSz

    Looks like Stockton with a population of about 300,000 is moving toward bankrupcy. The Council wants to stiff the municipal bondholders. heh. Merideth Whitney was a little premature in her municipal default forecasts – but correct nonetheless. I think Detroit will be the first big city to default unless the Fed governemnt bails them out.

  9. Tom masty says:

    I favor a longer day and longer school year with less crap from social science departments being taught. Let’s teach real history, math, science, etc

  10. Fubar says:

    The public education establishment probably can’t be reformed in any meaningful sense, only abolished.

    The purpose of public education is to create either conformists, or misfits.

    It reflects an Absolutist tendency that arose in european culture starting in the 1500s, that displaced the nascent humane institutions of representative democracy in the 500 years prior, such as the Magna Carta, Camino de Santiago, Abbey of Cluny, etc., Leonard Liggio, Atlas Institute. (on imperialism – see Ivan Illich)

    Please note that many of the “misfits” would have been the innovators and entrepreneurs in an earlier era of cultural freedom and “positive social mood”.

    The reemergence of bureaucratic Absolutism sets the pattern for a State Capitalist (Corporate/Fascist “nanny state”) society.

    The natural opposition to the corporate-state political power that developed after the Industrial Revolution was small, independent, populist family farmers and the small businesses that served them. The culture of these people was based on both self-reliance (“personal responsibility”) and agrarian communalism (shared value commitments and local wisdom/culture — Habermas).

    As explained by John Taylor Gatto, public education was put in place to destroy or marginalize such independent populists, most of whom ran small “self sufficient” farms that had marginal but sufficient profitability under historically low taxation.

    Bureaucratically bloated public schools, particularly near urban centers, caused a rise in property taxes that drove such small farmers out of business, at which point real estate developers could move in, buy out the farmers and create suburbs, corporate franchise strip malls, and so forth. The new residents could support a much higher tax burden, which allowed the vast expansion of both the state and corporate apparatus that now has become incapable of managing actual education, typically with any real accountability or competence.

    The corporate world, and its mirror – the state apparatus – worship at the alter of money and power. They are not concerned with culture or human decency, and never will be. They will always be liars. They will always be corrupt and self-serving, never altruistic, compassionate or selfless.

    Which is why the “structured abolition” (on a rational glide path) of public education is one of the important, in a long list of, reforms needed in California and the USA.

    A deep philosophical justification for such reforms:

    http://attackthesystem.com/beyond-conservatism-reclaiming-the-radical-roots-of-libertarianism/

    excerpt:


    The demise of the [Feudal] Old Order in Europe and America marked the beginnings of the political divisions of “Left” and “Right” or “liberal” and “conservative”. Rothbard correctly characterized classical Liberalism, the revolutionary ideology of the eighteenth century, as “the party of hope, of radicalism, of liberty, of the Industrial Revolution, of progress, of humanity” with Conservatism being “the party of reaction, the party that longed to restore the hierarchy, statism, theocracy, serfdom, and class exploitation of the Old Order”. Given that “liberalism admittedly had reason on its side, the Conservatives darkened the ideological atmosphere with obscurantist calls for romanticism, tradition, theocracy, and irrationalism”. No better description has ever been written of modern American conservatism, whether one speaks of the neoconservative con artistry that passes for its “leadership” or the jingoist, pseudo-populist ideology used to rally its grassroots support base. As the antithesis of Conservatism, classical Liberalism was, in Rothbard’s view, “essentially radical and revolutionary”. Liberalism, as described by the great Catholic historian Lord John Acton, “wishes for what ought to be, irrespective of what is.”(7)

    If libertarianism has its roots in eighteenth century radical liberalism, how, then, did libertarianism come to be identified with conservatism? As the nineteenth century progressed, classical liberalism largely became the status quo. Like other movements that become corrupted or compromised with the achievement of victory, Liberalism began to lose its radical edge and started accommodating itself to the Establishment. Consequently, the old feudal ruling classes were able to reinvent themselves as a state-capitalist class, subsequently degenerating into neo-mercantilism and “liberal imperialism”.

    —end—

  11. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    I heard that teachers get premium pay for agreeing to teach at the high-risk schools like Compton HS. Is that true?

    No- 100% false.

    Once a teacher starts getting seniority they ALWAYS leave the inner city schools, which leaves less experienced teachers at the inner city schools. This is why when you see teachers getting laid off- since it goes by seniority- (in many cases) inner city schools will see 80%-100% of their teachers laid off, because they are always the newest.

  12. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    It must be totally demoralizing for a teacher to see only 2 of every 10 students graduate.

    For me it is almost impossible to believe. Think about it- only 1 in 5 graduates- even in the inner city that is shocking to me.

  13. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Let’s teach real history, math, science, etc

    STEM subjects-it is all there right now, the teachers and the system discourage it being taught competently.

    It is not uncommon to get 100 kids in a junior college entry level math class, is it any wonder it fails with those kinds of ratios????

  14. Bob says:

    “Who’s the kid with the Beatle cut???”

    Surely, Mr. Bub, with your powers you must know that’s Jobs. ;)

    “Habermehl was on PBS Socal the other night. The host asked him if he could change one thing in the school system what would it be? Naturally the answer was that he needed more M-O-N-E-Y!!!”

    Yup. The worse they do the more money they think they should steal from the taxpayers.

    Here’s the attitude typical of our government “servants”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdREEcx0-Qc

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSh7WUK1GDc

    Thank you, everyone. Be strong. YES WE CAN!

  15. Bob says:

    “Who’s the kid with the Beatle cut???”

    Surely, Mr. Bub, with your powers you must know that’s Jobs. ;)

    “Habermehl was on PBS Socal the other night. The host asked him if he could change one thing in the school system what would it be? Naturally the answer was that he needed more M-O-N-E-Y!!!”

    Yup. The worse they do the more money they think they should steal from the taxpayers.

    Here’s the attitude typical of our government “servants”

  16. Bob says:

    Thank you, everyone. Be strong. YES WE CAN!

  17. Beelzebub says:

    “Surely, Mr. Bub, with your powers you must know that’s Jobs”

    That’s Jobs? I thought it was Seiler when he was a kid. Seriously, I did.

    “Here’s the attitude typical of our government “servants”

    I think that was a SEIU rally in Chicago. I can’t wait for Illinois to go under and take Chicago with it. Illinois has billions of dollars in unpaid bills. $1.9 billion in medicaid bills alone. That’s only the health care industry. There are billions of unpaid bills in road maintenance, construction, etc…. too. Those unpaid contractors have only so much patience.

    Here, read this:

    “Aides say Quinn will suggest trimming projected Medicaid spending by $2.7 billion in the budget year that starts July 1. If they don’t, aides warn, a backlog of unpaid bills that already stands at $1.9 billion will grow so large that doctors, hospitals and pharmacies may cut off services because the state can’t pay for them”

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-quinn-medicaid-reform-0220-20120220,0,7615873.story

    It’s a disaster waiting to happen. The government knows that if they cut off the leeches the burning and looting starts. They’re really in a pickle. I think the federal government will start printing money like mad before they cut the leeches off. They’ll debase the dollar and your buying power will collapse. As I see it, that’s their only real option. There’s no possible way that they can generate the economic productivity needed to grow their way out of this depression. The only alternative is to heat up the printing press. And with that comes a whole new set of problems. If the other nations ever get together and decide to drop the dollar as the world’s reserve currency we are done.

  18. Bob says:

    I would not want to live in Illnoise…er sorry…Illinois and especially Chicago.

    What an armpit of a state. Ugly country, terrible weather, high taxes and super corrupt politicians.

    Well, Colliefornia has two of those four attributes.

    I tell ya, Mr. Bub, I’m surprise this whole house of cards economy hasn’t hit the wall yet. The Fed’s heroin has got the corpse going for a while longer, but you have to wonder how much longer all of this can last.

  19. Beelzebub says:

    “I tell ya, Mr. Bub, I’m surprise this whole house of cards economy hasn’t hit the wall yet. The Fed’s heroin has got the corpse going for a while longer, but you have to wonder how much longer all of this can last”

    Yeah, I predicted a massive double dip and a total flush in 2011. I was wrong. I underestimated the many ways that the Fed can game the financial system to keep the turd afloat. Bailouts, borrowing, quantitative easing (printing), keeping interest rates artificially low, hidden inflation, erosion of consumer buying power, etc… If push came to shove they could even seize all 401-k’s and force account owners into US treasuries.

    But this is a very dangerous game. The deficit spending can’t continue without eventual disastrous consequences. I don’t see how they can keep interest rates down to essentially 0%. For every 1% increase in rates it adds $100B to service the federal debt. If interest rates went to 10% (very possible) it would cost nearly $1T to service the Federal debt annually at the current debt level.

    Once Joe6Pack feels enough pain he’s going to start fighting back. We really aren’t that far away from being Greece, or for that matter Syria.

  20. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    OWS is the civil unrest we are seeing in more serious outbursts in other countries-I also agree we could easily get to the point of a Syria if the keeps F’ing over the middle class and poor.

  21. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    When Chicago is selling their DT parking meters to Goldman Sachs and the rates go up 500% in 12 months you know the city has problems………

  22. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    BTW-that is exactly what Arnold was trying to do with our state office buildings-all paid for with no rent-he wanted to sell them so we could rent them back and lose money on an annual basis for eternity.

  23. Beelzebub says:

    “When Chicago is selling their DT parking meters to Goldman Sachs and the rates go up 500% in 12 months you know the city has problems………”

    Did you know that JP Morgan processes food stamp claims for most states? It gets paid a per capita rate for each food stamp recipient. $Billions$ in added revenue and profit. Recently there was an ad campaign to recruit more food stamp applicants. I suspect JP Morgan contributed to that too. We have 46M on food stamps in America. In 2002 there were only 18M on food stamps.

  24. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    Wow, that was a GREAT video (up until the commie dork at the end) and it is really the root of our problem, off shoring our jobs like JP Morgan does.

    It is our elected leaders-they are wiping out the country at the bequest of Big Business, greed is destroying the middle class and poor while making the top 1% filthy rich.

  25. Beelzebub says:

    “It is our elected leaders-they are wiping out the country at the bequest of Big Business, greed is destroying the middle class and poor while making the top 1% filthy rich”

    There it is! So many people miss the point when they blame it exclusively on government or exclusively on Wall Street. The state and corporate powers have MERGED which has resulted in a form of fascism. The meltdown of 2008 could have never happened without the willful participation of BOTH! Both are EQUALLY responsible! It’s like trying to decide who’s more guilty. The guy who cracked the safe or the guy reached in and took the money. Did you hear the latest? Now the Powers that Be are claiming that the theft of $1.6B in segregated customer accounts by MF Global was an ‘accounting mistake’ and not a crime!!! :D So looks like Corzine and his lieutenants will never get punished. Of course Corzine was the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, a former NJ state senator and a former governor and a big contributor to Obama’s reelection. This is like the mob operations back in the 20’s/30’s only on a much, much larger scale.

  26. Rex The Wonder Dog! says:

    It’s like trying to decide who’s more guilty. The guy who cracked the safe or the guy reached in and took the money. Did you hear the latest? Now the Powers that Be are claiming that the theft of $1.6B in segregated customer accounts by MF Global was an ‘accounting mistake’ and not a crime!!

    Yep, pretty pathetic. If Corzine is not sent to prison rioting will occur, why he is not in jail awaiting charges is purely politics IMO.

  27. Chloe says:

    That is really lovely that you and your family enjoyed summer vacations traveling and exploring the land. Unfortunately as reality has it, that is not the summer that students who live in high-poverty areas are experiencing. The 18th and 19th century were glorious, but let’s wake up and smell that 21st century coffee.

    • CalWatchdog says:

      Chloe: “18th and 19th Century”? No one traveled from Michigan to California in the 18th Century. In the 19th, it would have meant going with Lewis and Clark, or later on a conestoga wagon. I certainly “smell that 21st century coffee” today, as I report on this Website on how far America, and California, have fallen since 1964, through multiple and increasing assaults on the middle class from absurdly high taxes and regulations; and how the poor have been damaged through debilitating welfare dependency that keeps them hooked into government programs and bureaucrats while preventing them from entering the middle class.

      — John Seiler

  28. Chloe says:

    I just disagree with your stance on the longer school year. The power of summer vacation in creating geniuses is a heartwarming sentiment.With more time, used well (very key here), the longer school day/school year can provide more engaging, high-quality academics; more opportunities for enrichments, internships, and fulfilling experiences; and more interactions with caring and attentive adults. It is about expanding opportunities and ensuring equity for children.

    Funding (or a lack there of!)is obviously a barrier. I recommend this resource: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec11/vol69/num04/Time%E2%80%94It's-Not-Always-Money.aspx

  29. Ken says:

    Excuse me for being simplistic in such an important, august debate, but when the school year was approximately 9 months long our country led the world in just about everything. Our kids were leaving aschool with real basic skills and not a string of A’s in “sensitivity training.” WE also had trade schools which produced mcuh of our manufacturing talent. Back only a few decades, maybe four or five, It seemed that kids getting a full summer break was a positive thing. Going down to the local swimming hole and maybe attending some summer school classes, taking in some movies and having some fun didn’t seem to hold back anyone. It was all working just fine. Then, somewhere in the 60s, along came a new twisted mindset, probably a product of federal meddling, and the school year increased but kids no longer could tell you who George Washington was. Through recent decades (of which I have had first hand experience in seven) one of our biggest failings in education seems to me to be that we can’t let something that is working continue unmolested. Enter the “experts!” Now we hire experts at burdensome cost, administrators with outrageous salaries, to meddle with and change what is working. Before all we needed was horse sense. It allowed us to prevail in the great wars and put a man on the moon. Seems adequate! So what in the h— is wrong with us now? In general, the author is right on target. He hits the bullseye. Modern educational thinking is too pathetically muddled. Going back to our educational future makes so much sense. So, fire the experts who have dragged us down, clip the administrator gaggle by 90% and let’s get back to the basics.

  30. nowsane says:

    Chloe makes some very good points about technology as it affects education. I’ve always been interested in distance learning, and I can’t understand why administrators have not embraced this aspect of education. But too often, as here in California, rules are set up not to benefit students but to ensure the continued employment of existing teachers. Who cares whether the students learn anything?
    But the authur and Ken are also right in regards to always looking to increased $$$ to solve a TEACHING issue and getting burdened with the federal government’s interpretation of what course of instruction right for all students.
    School Choice for everyone!!!

News Archive

Archive By Categories
  • Budget and Finance
  • Education
  • Health care
  • Infrastructure
  • Inside Government
  • Life in California
  • Politics and Elections
  • Regulations
  • Rights and Liberties
  • Waste, Fraud and Abuse