The Oklahoma Senate approved a bill Monday to require at least 165 school days a year.
Lawmakers in 2009 began to allow an instruction time minimum of 1,080 hours to make up for days missed to bad weather, but that’s led to whittled-down school years even in fair-weather years. Sen. Gary Stanislawski said some districts are down to 135 days of school.
"That’s over a month less of face-to-face instructional time. And how do they get there? That’s eight hour a day school days. I cannot imagine kindergartners, first graders, second graders sitting in class for eight hours," Stanislawski said.
Senate Bill 441 would require at least 165 days of classroom time starting in the 2021–2022 school year, though the minimum hours required will stay at 1,080. Sen. Mary Boren said the bill does not help students by actually adding instructional time.
"This bill helps us restore our image wherever the state chamber of commerce or local chamber of commerces go to try to recruit business to Oklahoma," Boren said.
Restoring five-day school weeks is among Senate Republicans’ goals for the session. Democratic Sen. J.J. Dossett said now’s not the time.
"The bottom line is we’re $777 million — is my newest number, seems accurate — what we’re behind on the per-pupil expenditure. We cannot mandate days or amount of time or what are school districts doing until we are regionally competitive on the per-pupil basis," Dossett said.
SB441 would allow for no minimum number of school days if districts meet performance and savings guidelines the State Department of Education will write.
A previous version of SB441 included provisions for a teacher pay raise. Those were removed before Monday's Senate vote.
The bill passed the Senate 30–16 and now goes to the House.