OK Senate Bill Would Require 5-Day School Weeks
TULSA, Oklahoma - About 100 Oklahoma public school districts are on four-day school weeks, blaming state budget cuts for the schedule.
Now, a state senator is pushing a bill that would make shortened weeks against the law.
Senate Bill 37, if passed, would require Oklahoma students to go to school five days a week.
Tulsa Public Schools considered going to four days a week this year but found other places to cut costs. Many other districts, including Catoosa Public Schools, went ahead and made the change.
Rebecca Bell wasn't sure about Catoosa's four-day school week at first, but now, her family is on board. Bell recognized she's lucky her situation is one that doesn't require paying for daycare.
"My kids love it," Bell said. "They enjoy three-day weekends."
Many districts did the same as Catoosa: cutting the school week short to save money.
School board member Robert West said Catoosa saved $600,000 since last year, which was necessary because of budget shortfalls.
"The subject of a four-day week would never even have come up if we would have been given the money we were promised from the state," West said.
If passed, Senate Bill 37 would get rid of that option completely, making five-day school weeks the law, except in cases of emergencies, holidays and severe weather situations.
State Senator Kyle Loveless of Oklahoma City authored the bill.
Loveless said shorter school weeks shortchange the students and don't save that much money — most salaries are fixed, he elaborated, so only transportation costs are reduced with shorter weeks.
"We really should put the kids' education over everything else," Loveless said, "and if that's the case, we need to go to a five-day school week."
West said it's not about whether people prefer the shorter week. He believes state legislators shouldn't be the ones deciding what school districts do.
"It's very much so an unfunded mandate," West said. "Here we are getting direction from the state, saying, 'You have to do this, you have no other choice,' yet they're not giving us a way to pay for that."
Tulsa Public Schools did not want to comment on the proposed bill.
Shawna Mott-Wright, vice president of the Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association, also called the proposed bill an "unfunded mandate," adding she believes the state legislature is trying to limit options to "a problem they created."
You can read the full bill here.