Longer School Days? Nope, Dinner

Blogging’s been light this week -- blame it on my hubbie’s (minor) surgery – and maybe I’m crankier than usual. But, still, it felt like a set-up: Christie heads to Camden’s Dudley Family School, according to the Star-Ledger,  for a big "education announcement." The Ledger speculates,  "while his staff is mum on details, Christie proposed lengthening the school day in his State of the State address last week and the Dudley Family School has an extensive afterschool program.”

Great! We're going to get some substantive information about the breadth of this proposed new program: how many districts are involved, how we're going to best use extended instructional time to promote academic achievement, and, not least importantly, how we're going to pay for it.

Or  not. Instead,  Christie goes to Camden and – wait for it – “promot[es] the district's most recent initiative: free dinner for Camden students,” which is served between 3:30 and 4:30 at a few schools.
Not a word about longer school days and years.

But lots about  serving hot dinners, which Christie called an “innovative kind of program” that can show parents “the success and satisfaction that comes from watching your student improve everyday.”
Talking to a number of elementary school students, he emphasized the importance of developing students having the ability to eat a hot meal in the early evening.
“It’s really important to be eating before you do your homework and prepare for school the next day,” said Christie.
Serving dinner to needy students is great. But someone at the Governor's Office  needs to figure out how a visit touted as an "educational announcement" worthy of a press release was merely, as NJ Spotlight put it, a "photo op." Talk about over-promising and under-delivering.

On a more positive note, Ed Commissioner Chris Cerf did have some substantive remarks for Spotlight:
Cerf said it was not just about adding time to the clock: “Longer day, longer year doesn’t add any value unless it is quality time,” he said. “It could mean lots of different things. It could be summer work, it could mean tutoring.”
Cerf acknowledged that one of the big issues is the potential cost of programs, all but precluding a change in the statewide calendar. Christie’s next state budget is to be presented in February, with considerable pressures on revenues and required pension contributions.
“A statewide mandate would run into serious budget realities, and also undermine local decision making,” Cerf said. 
At least someone's talking turkey.

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