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Oklahoma Republican Lawmakers Seek to Make Good on Promise of Restoring Five-Day School Weeks

Oklahoma Watch

Restoring five-day school weeks was one of four agenda items this year for Oklahoma Senate Republicans, and a measure to do that has made it out of committee.

Senate Bill 441 requires public schools to be in session 180 days. Senator Marty Quinn said around 100 districts are still on four-day weeks, citing a lack of funding.

"But not one time have those school districts come back and said, 'You know what? Arkansas only has 260 school districts. I wonder if we could save any money in administration,'" Quinn said.

SB441 passed 11–6. Two of three Democrats on the Senate Education Committee, Sens. J.J. Dossett and Allison Ikley-Freeman, voted no, saying schools need to be fully funded before they’re required to be in session five days a week.

"We’ve given schools flexibility to deal with problems, to deal with budget cuts, but to take that away before we’ve proved that we’re properly investing, I can’t be for [the bill]," Dossett said.

Republican leaders say four-day school weeks are hurting the state’s reputation and making it hard to attract new businesses. SB441 would, however, districts to stay on them if four-day weeks aren’t hurting student achievement and are saving money.

A related bill seeks to increase their instruction time, too. Those districts would have to request hours-based instruction requirements, and Senate Bill 579 would boost the minimum for them to 1,140 hours of instruction over at least 155 days.

Sen. Gary Stanislawski said the current 1,080 hours required aren’t much broken into the eight-hour days at some schools.

"What’s in the best interest of the student? And I do not believe 135 days in front of a teacher is in the best interest of any student in our state. We can do better than that," Stanislawski said.

SB579 exempts the Oklahoma School for the Blind and the Oklahoma School for the Deaf.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.