More Texas school districts considering 4-day school weeks

The debate for a 4-day school week continues for some districts across the state.

But one North Texas school board is tabling the idea until there's more guidance from the Texas Education Agency.

Mesquite ISD is pausing its discussions about switching to a 4-day school week. The district is going to wait and see if the Texas Legislature weighs in on the matter first. 

But dozens of other districts are not waiting for the state and have already made plans for the change for the next school year.        

The 50 districts across the state that are switching to a 4-day week say it's a way to attract and retain teachers. But some experts say it is an experiment that could backfire. 

"A lot of rural schools are going to this model I think it is saving the district money," explained Dr. Chris Sloan, Associate Dean of the College of Education at Tarleton State University. "Less utilities with buildings closed. They don't run the buses one day."

But Sloan says the savings could come at a cost. A 4-day school week would mean either longer school days, shorter summers or a potentially harmful option: teachers spending less time with students. 

"The idea of 3-day weekends sounds good in theory," he said. "In practice, either the hours the teacher works is exactly the same or someone suffers."

Alliance AFT President Rena Honea represents Dallas ISD teachers. She says the state should allow districts the freedom to make the decision for themselves, but she says she would have serious reservations about the model for large urban districts. 

"We are not only looking at lost instructional minutes. If students are not in school Fridays, that means parents have to have someone who can take care of the younger kids," she said. "Is that an increase in daycare? Someone who has to take off to be with them?"

As a former teacher, Honea says a longer school day would be tough on younger students. 

"I think it would be a crazy attempt," she said. "That is a long time for them to be up and engaged."

And there are also students with special needs districts that need to consider.

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"The special needs population needs consistency and repetition," Honea said. "When routines are messed with, it causes issues for them."

Honea says the real solution to the so-called teacher shortage is giving teachers what they need to be effective.

"Treat them with dignity and respect," she said. "Don't overcrowd classrooms. Give them materials and supplies they need to do their job well."

Dr. Sloan says better pay would go further than longer weekends. 

"Traditionally, teachers are paid far less than other jobs requiring a bachelor's degree and certifications," he said. "Currently, teachers hold 3 of the top 10 lowest salaries after obtaining a bachelor’s degree."

Sloan says raises for teachers would need to be combined with raises for administrators and support staff to prevent glaring discrepancies. 

There is a bill in the Texas House to give teachers $15,000 raises and support staff 25% raises, but it has not yet been scheduled for a committee vote.