Proponents of longer school days hope to make gains in state Senate’s budget

After holding ground in the House, advocates of the Expanded Learning Time (ELT) Initiative are urging the Senate to increase funding for the program, which currently provides aid to 19 schools that offer more classroom time for students. (See grant recipients here; some 90 schools statewide have some kind of program with additional school hours.)

Last month, the House of Representatives passed a budget including level funding for ELT, at $14.1 million for fiscal year 2014. But Massachusetts 2020, the education advocacy group that launched the initiative, is urging an increase in funding when the Senate writes its version of the state budget later this month. In March, 22 mayors and superintendents called for an increase in ELT funding, in a letter released during a meeting of the Gateway Cities Legislative Caucus. Governor Deval Patrick has also endorsed an expansion of the program.

CommonWealth magazine executive editor Michael Jonas recently made the case for ELT, writing that “a longer school day for students in high-poverty school districts could make a big difference in closing the persistent achievement gap.” Jonas writes:

…several schools that have been part of the initiative have shown impressive results. The Edwards Middle School in Charlestown, which serves a student population that is 90 percent low-income, has narrowed considerably the gap between its students’ English MCAS scores and statewide averages and its students outperform the state average in math. The Kuss Middle School in Fall River, labeled “chronically underperforming” by the state in 2005, made math and English gains since joining the ELT initiative in 2007 that were dramatic enough to have the school featured on the CBS Evening News last month.
The next step in the process is the approval of a recommended budget by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

                    – Robert David Sullivan

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