San Jose students already have at least four weeks off during the school year thanks to winter, February, and spring break but many are getting another week off thanks to the addition of furlough days to the 2010-11 school calendar. In most cases, this means students will have either the entire week of Thanksgiving off or the week of October 4, depending on the school district they attend.
Up until July 2009, school districts were required under the California Education Code to provide 180 days or more or instructional time per calendar year. In 2009, section 46201.2 was added stating that until the 2012-13 school year, districts “may reduce the equivalent of up to five days or instruction or the equivalent number of instructional minutes” without a penalty from the California Department of Education. This means that the state will pay school districts for 180 days worth of average daily attendance (ADA-approximately $35 per unit per student) even if the district only has175 school days. This gives the district some needed funds to make up for the budget cuts the state made to education.
The Governor first proposed cutting five days worth of instructional time out of the school year in the fall of 2008 but cutting days out of a school district calendar is not that easy. School districts must meet with all of the union groups represented in their district, and all bargaining groups must come into agreement on the addition of furlough days since it means employees are taking a pay cut. Furlough days are unpaid days where the school district is closed and in most cases (unless negotiated), employees can’t use vacation time to cover the unpaid furlough day. District calendars also have to be approved at a school district Board meeting.
The area’s largest school district, San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD) opted to take five furlough days together, the week of October 4 to 8. In a statement to the community in the spring, former SJUSD Superintendent Don Iglesias stated three reasons for choosing the October 4 week: It falls at a normal break in the instructional calendar, the District didn’t want furlough days scattered throughout the calendar, and the week off does not dramatically affect high schools in the district.
Four other San Jose based school districts chose to spread out their furlough days throughout the year. Cambrian, Moreland, and Oak Grove School District now have a week off for Thanksgiving! Franklin-McKinley took the day after Veteran’s Day as a furlough day and the other most common furlough day was the day after school ends. Some of the districts converted days that they normally take off as a staff development day into a furlough day. For example, the Cambrian School District generally takes the third Friday in October as a staff development day but this year it is designated as a Furlough day.
Not all school districts in San Jose are adding furlough days, or at least not yet. Furlough days are scheduled to end in 2013- that is unless the deadline is extended and that remains to be seen.