Categorized | Express Editorials

Saving Energy, But at What Cost?

Posted on 31 July 2008

Watching the price of oil and gas rise over the course of the last year, we, like everyone, have felt the pinch. Regardless, we have a number of reservations about discussions on the state level regarding a four-day school week in an effort to provide taxpayer relief and energy savings.

We understand the bill with this provision, now pending in the New York State Assembly, simply calls for the creation of a plan to implement this change. But even on its surface we have a number of concerns, not just about the effect this may have on our children’s education, but also our daily lives.

The reality is our workforce has evolved dramatically over the course of the last 30 years. Many families cannot afford the luxury of having one parent stay home from work, even on a part-time basis. We are also a society with many single parent households to consider. For many of us who are working parents, we rely on the five-day school week and often after school programming while we engage in our working lives, knowing our children are safe and cared for while we provide for the family financially and pursue our careers.

On this level alone, unless the State of New York were to consider sweeping legislation providing financial assistance for child care, we do not see how a four-day school week is accomplished without seriously disrupting the working lives of parents, the businesses who employ them or a family’s check book.

From an academic perspective, what are the impacts to our children’s education under this concept? We imagine each school day would be lengthened in order to accommodate losing a full day of class time, and are curious if studies have been performed to understand how the learning patterns of children of all ages are affected by a longer school day. How would curriculum and extra-curricular activities be affected under this plan?

We have a lot of questions, as we are sure a number of parents, teachers and school administrators do. We would encourage lengthy and thoughtful discussion on this topic and are curious to hear from professionals on this one.

But as parents, we can safely say at this point we believe there are far more effective ways the State of New York could promote savings in the face of this oil crisis. For one thing, the state could make sustainability and energy efficiency a true priority and create legislation and strong mandates to that effect. We will all need to make more substantive changes to our lifestyles if we are to save money in the long run, rather than create money saving measures that really don’t save anyone anything, including our planet. 

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