The state Senate Education Committee passed a bill requiring five-day school weeks.
Right now, 92 of the state's more than 500 school districts, have gone to four-day school weeks.
The districts originally said they did it to save money. But lawmakers say the savings are modest at best, and those schools could be required to return to five-day weeks.
“Let us not lose sight that it’s about the child. Next year. The year after that. The year after that. These kids are in the classroom today. These kids need high expectations today,” said Senator Greg Treat (R) President Pro Tempore.
So, the Senate Education Committee passed Senate Bill 441. It would require schools to go to a five-day week, although schools could apply through the state Department of Education to go to four-day weeks if they meet performance levels and can show cost savings.
“So, for school districts that potentially use a four-day school week as a recruitment tool for certified school districts, how do you see this impacting those school districts?” asked Senator Carri Hicks (D) Oklahoma City.
Bill author Senator Marty Quinn (R) Claremore says this was never supposed to be about recruitment.
“It was because we could not afford to keep our doors open. That was the reason. It was how horrible the funding for school systems were. Personally, I believe it was a political ploy,” said Senator Quinn.
Quinn says combined schools only saved a few thousand dollars by going to four-day weeks. He says if schools were really interested in saving money, they’d consolidate some of the state’s more than 500 districts.
“Not one time have those school districts come back and said, you know what? Arkansas has only 260 school districts. I wonder if we could save any money in administration,” said Senator Quinn. “It’s not about the student. We’re using this as a facade and that’s it.”
The bill now goes before the full Senate.