Representatives Hayes and Patmon have reintroduced legislation to allow schools to count their school year in terms of hours instead of days in the form of House Bill 32.  In the previous General Assembly, this was House Bill 191 and it fizzled out in the House Education Committee.  This Wednesday, May 8, the House Education Committee will take up HB32 by hearing testimony from the sponsors.

You can read our writing about HB191 here.

In addition to allowing public schools some flexibility in the crafting of the school year (the bill removes the 182 day requirement and substitutes it with an equivalent minimum number of hours), the bill proposes allowing chartered nonpublic schools to meet on weekends and eliminates the definition of a “school month”:

Sec. 3313.62.  The school year shall begin on the first day of July of each calendar year and close on the thirtieth day of June of the succeeding calendar year. A school week shall consist of five days, and a school month of four school weeksA chartered nonpublic school may be open for instruction with pupils in attendance on any day of the week, including Saturday or Sunday.

Before you flip your lid about the transportation requirement for public districts to provide buses for these nonpublic students, the bill does contain this provision:

A board of education shall not be required to transport elementary or high school pupils to and from a nonpublic or community school on Saturday or Sunday, unless a board of education and a nonpublic or community school have an agreement in place to do so before the effective date of this amendment.

Likewise, a community school seeking to adjust their schedule must also coordinate any unusual schedule changes with their local public district in terms of the transportation requirement:

Sec. 3314.092. The governing authority of a community school established under this chapter shall consult with each school district board of education that transports students to the community school under sections 3314.09 and 3327.01 of the Revised Code prior to making any change in the hours or days in which the community school is open for instruction.

The biggest change, however, is the increase in the minimum requirement of the number of hours a school must be open in exchange for removing the minimum number of days.  Here’s the impact (cribbed from our HB 191 analysis):

The most interesting change is in the minimum requirements.  Current law mandates that schools hold classes on 182 days, for five clock hours per day (academic classes).  Simple math shows us that this adds up to a minimum legal requirement of 910 total hours of school per year.

House Bill 32 actually requires an increase in the minimum number of hours of academic instruction up to 1,001.  [Brief note: the laws differentiate between grades K-6 and 7-12, but the calculations for K-6 account for recesses in their own unique way rendering the number of hours essentially the same for each grade band.]  So while I previously talked about the school year for my son potentially dropping in the number of days, it can be said that Hayes’ proposal actually increases the minimum standard for schools by 91 total hours per year.

So why did I claim that weeks will be cut from the school year when Hayes and Patmon seem to have added 91 hours?

Because the vast majority of Ohio school districts aren’t working at the minimum level.  Students are typically engaged in learning for more than the required five hours per day – anywhere from 5 1/2 to 7 hours in classes, between 1001 to 1274 total hours per year.  With the current minimum being 910 hours, it’s easy to see how schools are exceeding that figure.  It’s also to see why Hayes could have mistakenly believed he was raising the bar for education as he proposed an increase to 1,001.

House Bill 32 demands an increase in state education funding.

Under today’s law, schools are funded by the state for being in session for the minimum number of hours – 910.  The structured per pupil funding amounts are based on the premise that schools are providing an education for the minimum five hours per day, 182 days per year, 910 total school hours.  Schools that try to do more than this?  That’s a problem that is dealt with at the local funding level through locally decided levies, not through any state dollars.  Districts are currently compensated based on the current hours mandated by state law.  A change in that state law to increase the minimum requirements necessitates a comparable increase in state funding.  The state can’t reasonably expect a school district that is following the legal requirements to simply increase their workload by 10% (910 hours to 1,001 hours) without a comparable increase in funding.

Thus here’s the silver lining of House Bill 32 for public education: a 10% increase in state funding to every school district to meet the new required number of hours of instruction.

I’m not sure where an extra $1 billion will be coming from, but I’m sure everyone will put it to good use. Does anyone think Cleveland’s mayor or CEO of schools will refuse an extra $50 million per year?