Branstad reforms could bring more class time

Iowa currently has a 180-day school year

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Sweeping education reforms proposed by Gov. Terry Branstad are likely to include the creation of a task force that would consider extending the amount of time Iowa students spend in school.

Branstad announced in October that he'll ask lawmakers to approve reforms aimed at improving education for Iowa's 468,000 students and better the quality of the state's teachers. Class-time extensions were not included in his original plan.

But Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education, last week told an advisory group of school superintendents that Branstad is expected to add the creation of a task force to consider such extensions. The task force would likely consider adding 10 days to the school year, lengthening school days and requiring struggling students to go to school on Saturdays or take summer classes.

Iowa currently has a 180-day school year. State law mandates that each school day last at least 5.5 hours, but most students are in class an average of 6.5 hours.

The need for more class time was brought up by both parents and teachers during several town hall meetings held this past fall, Glass said.

"It's such a contentious issue, and there are so many considerations that are at play," Glass told the newspaper. "But we really felt the issue is really ripe for discussion in Iowa, and it's something that the people wanted to talk about."The Education Department estimates it would cost $10 million to $15 million statewide for each extra day of school. The cost of adding an hour to the school day is unknown.

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