The four-day work week has been gaining popularity, especially in the public sector, where numerous cities and towns have begun to implement the idea. Recently, Utah announced that it will be the first state with a mandatory 4-day week for all State government employees. It now appears that governments are considering the trend, not just for state employment, but for education, as well.
What’s Fuel Got to Do With It? A lot.
In an article titled, “Schools eye four-day week to cut fuel costs,” Reuters reports that about 100 schools in 16 states have already moved to a four-day week.
The 4-day school week is lauded as a way to save money on transportation, heating, and cooling. The program is popular especially in “rural school districts where buses may travel 100 miles round-trip each day, there certainly are transportation savings worth considering,” said Marc Egan, the director of federal affairs at the National School Boards Association. With the increasing cost of fuel, the supporters of the 4-day week claim that the cost-savings in fuel and energy will help schools avoid having to eliminate important school programs or cut jobs.
What Do Kids Have to Do With It? At least something, I hope.
The cost-savings, of course, is a tempting prospect, especially at a time when schools everywhere have seen their budgets wither yearly. But there isn’t any solid evidence as to the impact the change would have on learning.
One question that comes to mind is what impact this type of program would have on parents? Although school districts’ fuel costs might go down, families’ day-care bills would likely go up. For older students, it could also mean more time at home without supervision. Would the costs simply be redistributed to families with young children who may be the least able to absorb the increase?
And there are other practical issues. For example, what about sports and extra-curricular activities? If kids will be in class until 5, will they attend practice and games until 9 or 10 pm? And what about the length of the school day? Do we expect our children to suddenly develop longer attention spans? Will schools need to add programs during the day to give kids’ brains a break? Or would that mean less time overall? And, let’s be honest. Despite the popularity of the four-day work week, there are lots of adults who are not embarrassed to admit that a 10-hour workday is just too long. Might children not feel the same?
What About Parents?
Assuming, though, that this turns out to be a great idea for kids and for schools, I wonder whether it will be the kind of push that would get more private-sector employers to consider a shorter work week? The four-day week could easily become the battle cry of parents facing the cost of another day of day care. Just look at the scuttlebut when Google raised the price of its day care plan offered to employees.