Obama Wants Longer School Years

President Obama wants longer school years, and he repeated this point in his interview this morning with Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today." Here's what the president said:


I think we should have longer school years. We now have our kids go to school about a month less than most other advanced countries, and that month makes a difference. It means that kids are losing a lot of what they learn during the school year during the summer. It's especially severe for poorer kids who may not be seeing as many books in their house during the summers, aren't getting supplemental education activities.

So the idea of a longer school year, I think, makes sense. Now that's gonna cost some money, so here's an example of where you've got a good idea of reform--make sure our kids are in school longer--well, that means the school is open, it means you gotta pay teachers, custodial staff, et cetera, but I think that would be money well spent.

In case you were wondering how teachers' unions feel about this, it depends on the terms. Extended school years would have to be agreed between individual public school districts and the unionized teachers who work there. American Federation of Teachers spokeswoman Janet Bass said it depends on the agreement, and that an important factor is the quality of the curriculum and the education that goes on during the extra days, weeks, or months.

Here's what Bass had to say:

There is summer learning loss, and these things have to be negotiated at the local level. Teachers work out their personnel issues with their local school systems, and there is a cost involved, not just labor but keeping school buildings open...you also have to make sure that the instructional programs are good--and there are pilot programs around the country--...and that this is just now making a school year longer for longer's sake. It has to make sense, and there has to be a good instructional program for the kids to make it worthwhile...it's a good idea if all the puzzle pieces are put together well.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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