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Longer School Years Not The Answer For Philadelphia's Public Schools

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Approximately half of Philadelphia’s public school students cannot read nor do math at a grade school level. And approximately half of Philadelphia’s public school students drop out before graduation.

So, what to do about this problem?

According to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the way to fix this is by making both the school day and school year longer.

This, like many things with the Obama administration, is a foolish and naïve way to fix a complex problem. And this proposition is also dangerous, on more levels than one would expect.

To start with, there are no doubt thousands of students in Philadelphia who are on the fringe of dropping out. For some reason, these kids are hanging on by a thread. Imagine a poor kid from North Philly who, on top of school, also has to work in order to eat. If the school day is increased by a few hours, and the school year extends for about another month, this hypothetical child is going to be faced with a tough decision. And, in most cases, he’s going to do the one that’s going to result in surviving in the short-term.

Also, Duncan’s argument for increasing the school day and year boils down to this: it’s what other countries do. There’s no evidence that this actually does anything to improve test scores or any other metric used to measure a student’s performance. But any kid will tell you that a longer day and year isn’t going to make them enjoy learning any more. 

So, we can expect to see more resentful students leaving school early, which will lead to more kids who turn to crime, which leads to nothing good at all.

But extending the day and school year to improve education is merely misguided and foolish.

The naivety of Team Obama comes by their ignorance of how this would harm tourism, only one of the country – and Philly’s – most important industries.

During the summer, our hotels are filled with tourists looking to visit our city and, in particular, our historic sites. And many of our guests are families who want to see Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell and where this nation got its official start.

It goes without saying that an increased school year means a decreased vacation season. And this means less booked hotel rooms, less money spent at our restaurants and less money in our cash registers. It means shuttered shore homes and empty rides at Wildwood (although that isn’t necessarily a bad thing for health reasons). And it also means less visitors to Disney, which means less people buying airline tickets, which will destroy an already battered industry. And it also means etc. and blah blah blah.

This idea won’t solve what it intends to do. And it will have unintended consequences elsewhere.

Welcome to Obama’s America, America.