Longer school year proposed for Arizona children

PHOENIX - A new proposal under consideration at the Arizona State Legislature is looking at increasing the school year from 180 days to 200 days, adding another month of classroom time.

While research shows children with 20 extra days of class time showed dramatic improvement in reading and math, finding the money to pay teachers for the extra time is a problem.

"It's eleven percent more time, but only five percent more funding. That's the problem. It's not enough money to support this reform strategy. So this legislation is to increase the funding to eight percent which is essentially a break-even point for schools and schools districts," said Balsz School District superintendent Jeffrey Smith.

The Balsz School District implemented the extended school year four years ago and has seen tremendous growth in their students. Smith hopes his school district can set an example for other schools that are struggling.

"We had some schools ranked among the lowest, which are now standing at a B-rating. I credit that improvement to the extended school year," he said.

While the House committee approved the extra funding to eight percent on Monday, where that money will come from is still up in the air.

Kaitlin Warriner has been participating in extended school years for the past three years at Brunson-Lee Elementary. While she values the improvement of her students, she doesn't blame others for making the money factor a high priority.

"The budget is tough. But if it's benefiting them in the long run, then you need to find the space and the money for it," said Warriner.

The bill also proposes individual schools should be allowed to apply for a longer school year, separate from their school district.

It will now move to the House floor for consideration.

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