In Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s State of the State address, he took aim at a long-held but outdated tradition: the agrarian school calendar.
There was a time in our nation's history when children were needed to work family farms and ranches. They tended crops and livestock and helped with harvests and sending animals to market. They were an integral part of the nation's agriculture work force. Now, most farms and ranches are run by corporations. The closest most school-age children get to their food and fiber is by purchasing it at stores.
But the agrarian school calendar persists. For a nation that prides itself on innovation and productivity, there is widespread complacency about altering the traditional school calendar. For some strange reasons, Americans are not at all troubled when students and teachers, let alone school facilities, sit idle three months out of the year.
It's time to buck tradition. Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, is sponsoring a bill that would allocate $32 million in grants to school districts to modify their current nine-month school schedules. This proposal is long overdue. The Utah Legislature should pass SB41 with an eye toward eventually doing away with the agrarian school schedule statewide.
Huntsman views the issue as a matter of global competitiveness. In his State of the State address, he observed, "The global economy does not take summers off; neither should we."
He's right. Year-round school schedules enable students to better retain what they have learned and would increase the incomes of teachers who earn nine-month salaries, which some either stretch over 12 months or take second jobs to supplement. Why not utilize their talents year-round?
Stephenson's bill allows local school boards to decide for themselves whether to participate in a pilot program. Grants would vary according to a school district's size, and the funding can be used for anything related to the schedule conversion, including air conditioning and technology.
SB41 would allow innovative school districts to lead out on establishing a new school schedule and provide meaningful data that should result in permanent modification of the school calendar across the state. The Legislature should embrace this pilot program.