Lawmakers will consider doing away with the 180-day school year requirement and allowing flexibility.

Jerry Fiene with Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance likes the idea (SB-589). Removing the 180 day mandate while keeping a minimum number of hours of instruction would open up options for conserving resources while improving achievement.

AUDIO: Fiene says a lot of money can be saved by reducing transportation costs in rural areas. :21

Senator Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) is a lead sponsor of the bill. He says he didn’t like previous versions of the bill that were introduced at the Capitol several years ago, but has changed his mind because of school accountability.

AUDIO: Olsen says as long as the standards are met, the number of days doesn’t matter. :20

School administrators are happy with the idea. The bill would give them the flexibility to respond to changing weather conditions, and to consider year-round instruction. A big problem with the 180-day requirement is re-scheduling missed days.

Fiene also cites research showing that long breaks from school have a negative effect on achievement and retention. Fiene suggests reducing the length of the traditional summer recess.

Members of the state Senate Education Committee will consider the measure on Thursday. (The committee had a public hearing last Thursday.) A companion bill (AB-749) is scheduled for an Assembly Education Committee hearing Wednesday.

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