Public school financial problems will be exacerbated and education quality will be compromised if Florida policymakers use a year-round calendar, as Gov. Jeb Bush has proposed, to respond to voter mandates passed November 2002 for class size reduction and expanded preschool. Ample evidence for this conclusion is found in academic research, media accounts, and lawsuits now working their way through the courts. School calendar reconfiguration has been marketed to policymakers for 100 years as the most cost-efficient means of using and expanding school building space. Year-round school is also pitched as an academic remedy. But these claims run counter to experiences across the nation—especially during the last 30 years—and especially with the multi-track year-round school calendar. The multi-track year-round calendar expands school building capacity by placing children in the same school on different schedules and rotating a segment of the student body out of classrooms to make room for a segment returning from vacation. The 10- to 12-week summer break of the typical 180-day traditional school year is replaced with shorter, more frequent breaks throughout the year and a short summer vacation. School capacity can be extended up to 50 percent, depending on the calendar used. With some calendar plans, such as the Concept 6, a third of the students get no summer vacation break. Children in the same families are sometimes assigned different vacation schedules. Some version of a year-round calendar is also used when school districts extend the traditional school year by two weeks or more. Post-election, Gov. Bush floated the multi-track year-round calendar as a possible response to the class size reduction amendment he strongly opposed, then made it part of his final plan to address voter wishes. Rather than find money to build new classrooms, the governor made the year-round calendar one of the required options for districts that do not meet the two-per-year reduction in average class size beginning next year. Meeting the mandates without funds to build new classrooms is expected to plunge many Florida school districts into a facilities crisis they have been teetering on for years due to decades of rapid population growth and school reform edicts that gobbled up classrooms. Just incorporating technology into the classroom, as commanded in 1983 in A Nation At Risk,  is estimated to consume as much as 25 percent of school facility space. “The size of the standard classroom needs to increase another 25 percent to incorporate new technology into everyday instruction,” Education Week reported in 1996, citing a U.S. Government Accounting Office study. While this paper focuses on the multi-track calendar proposed by Gov. Bush, it also makes note of detriments common to both multi-track and single-track year-round calendars. Single-track year-round school keeps all students on the same vacation schedule but shortens the summer break and places children in classrooms in the hottest months of the year. Implementation of a single-track calendar often precedes an incremental implementation of a multi-track calendar in many school districts faced with rapid growth and fund shortages. Single-track calendars are marketed under a dozen various labels, among them: modified calendar, balanced calendar, flexible calendar, and continuous learning calendar. A consistent complaint in media, school district and research reports from around the country is that a year-round calendar—both the multi-track and single-track versions—narrows the window of opportunity for busy, modern-day families to schedule vacations together. Thomas Payne, as director of year-round education for the California Department of Education, said the year-round calendar “has the potential to break the family apart.”  This paper examines the politics and...
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