My Turn, Your Turn: School calendar

By Gary McNair - bio|email

(WECT) - I heard from a lot of people last week about the issue of the school calendar.  The state legislature had been debating a bill that could move up the start of the school year by a couple of weeks.

I heard from people on both sides.  Some thought it was a good idea - and others did not.  But it occurs to me that both sides might be missing the point.

If we really want to get serious about improving our educational system, the debate isn't about when kids go to school, but how much they go to school.   Let's talk about expanding the calendar - not sliding it.

Virtually every industrialized country in the world sends their kids to school longer than we do. In Germany, some school districts are in session for 260 days. In Japan it's 240.

Here in North Carolina and most of the country it's 180 days.  That may have made sense back when this was a country based on agriculture, but times have changed - and we haven't.  A global marketplace is demanding we take a closer look at how much - instead of when.

That's my turn.  Now it's your turn.  To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me at

Viewers' emailed responses:

I thought this was interesting in light of the newest ideas from the state. They want to cut the school year down by 10 more days to save money. 5 days next year and another 5 the following year. I don't think they are thinking about the students.


I saw your My Turn, Your Turn this morning about the school calendar and lengthening the school year. Did you know that the budget for 2009/2010 calls for a 5 day reduction in length and the same for 2010/2011? Did you also know that the budget for next year is calling for a reduction of 12,000 teachers and teacher assistants. Reducing the calendar to 175 next year and 170 the following year will equal a 2.5 pay cut each year for teachers. What does that say for education in North Carolina? Please take a look at the budget proposals for education next year and please do a segment on that. Where is our lottery money going and why should educators and state employees always have to balance the budget. I would have had much more respect for our Gov. Purdue if she had said I'm going to take this one half percent from the teachers' salaries right now because I can, but in the mean time I am going to increase sales tax and as soon as their is enough revenue, I'm going to pay these teachers/state employees back. Teachers are professionally abused and belittled at every turn. We need help and your segment could do a lot to let the public know not only what is happening to teachers, but what will happen to their children's education because of it. Thank you for listening. These are dire times for education. My job has already been cut for next year, but I have a son who has just graduated in May with a teaching degree, what is going to happen to him?


I could not have said it better myself.  My son attends a year round school and the facts are that the scores are higher in these schools, some of which can be contributed to less of a gap between school years.  The year round calendar gives the students the break that they need, but does not allow for them to forget much of what they learned.  I want my son to grow and be a responsible, contributing citizen of this country and am not really concerned about the length of his summer break.  Besides, we still have a lengthy 5 weeks in the summer and 3 weeks in the spring, fall, and winter break.  More schools should be forced to adapt to the year round calendar, perhaps our county scores would increase.

North Carolina is no longer an agricultural state.  Our students in this county (and most other counties) are not tending to the farms as in years past.  Unfortunately, many of them are spending time in front of the television or playing video games.

If the disgruntled parents have such strong opinions on the length of the school year, why don't they become more involved and realize where our real challenges are.  They could start with attending a school board meeting to voice their opinions.

The bottom line is that our public schools need more parent involvement both in school and at home.  That is where the majority of our issues are.  We have great schools, a great school board, and a great administrative staff, but parents need to spend a little more time with their children.


Your article makes an interesting point about the length of schools days in the United States vs. other countries. Check out this info I received today from the NC legislative link, NC is considering shortening the school calendar by 5 days during the 2009-2010 year. Then increase that to 10 days during the 2010-2011 year. I couldnt believe what I read on the legislative link. I teach 2nd grade at a Title 1 school, we need each and every one of those 180 days. The reasoning behind the cut backs, to decrease teacher's salaries. I can't even begin to describe how absurb this proposal is.


How long does this issue need to be debated? I came from rural PA and it is the same issue. There is no reason that our children should not be in school for more days. Why is this issue never resolved, could it be UNION related? In the long run, it would be better for all involved. Think about it.


I agree with the person that said the State is not thinking about our children's education. First, they need to start earlier so that the high school can have their mid term exams before "winter break". Also they need the days that they go, mainly in high school. They already have hour and a half classes in New Hanover County and they finish a subject in one semester. Now they want to cut the school year. I think that Bev Perdue needs to take a salary cut. I also think that our schools don't need to be on the chopping block. If Ms. Perdue would send lottery money into the general school funds and leave it alone, there would be no problem paying school employees. We need to think about impeachment and put someone in the offices that care about education. The Charlotte/ Meck. School system decided not to cut their schools. They seem to know what is important. Too bad the power that be don't think New Hanover county schools are that important. We all need to take a hard look at the people we elect and show with our vote that this is not acceptable. That is the only way things will change. Wake up people, Your children's education is at stake here!


Are you kidding me? Are you serious? I am a 15 year teaching veteran. I just received a pay cut. You suggest I work almost another 100 days? I invite you spend ONE WEEK, no wait make that ONE DAY in my class, do what I do and then talk about extending the school calendar. I need my summer job to make up for my school year pay!  PLEASE. Advocate for better pay, then talk about extending days. I just love it when people who have never taught start telling teachers want they need to do.

©2009 WECT. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.