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A few flakes of snow on Georgia’s red clay is often welcomed by cheers from many schoolchildren.
But in some parts of Georgia, students are missing more than a handful of days each school year because of other factors. The school year is now 30 to 40 days shorter in six districts, says the man in charge of Georgia’s public schools.
"We have about six school districts that they’re in school 140 to 150 days this year," Georgia schools Superintendent John Barge said. "Guys, that is significant. That’s over a month of instruction gone."
PolitiFact Georgia was curious whether Barge’s math was correct.
Barge, a Republican, made the comments at Stockbridge City Hall during a forum on the much-debated Common Core education standards. The forum was organized by state Rep. Demetrius Douglas, D-Stockbridge.
As superintendent, Barge has supported the national standards despite opposition from some Republican lawmakers and tea party and advocacy groups. The resistance could hurt Barge politically. He’s running for governor. Before taking office, Barge was critical of Common Core, and PolitiFact Georgia recently rated his position on the standards as a Half Flip.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported this summer that four districts had 150 or fewer days of classroom instruction. Were there as many as six now?
The state of Georgia requires that schools offer between 810 and 990 hours a year in instructional time for students, depending on the grade level. Most Georgia school districts hold classes for 180 days.
Matt Cardoza, the communications director for the state’s Education Department, sent us a spreadsheet with the number of days of instruction for each school district for the 2012-13 school year and the projected days of instruction for this year.
The 2012-13 list showed there were four districts with 150 or fewer days of instruction. They were Chattooga County (144 days), Haralson County (147 days), Webster County (148 days) and Stewart County (150 days).
Chattooga, Haralson and Webster are the only three counties that were projected to have fewer than 150 days of instruction. Stewart and Wilcox counties are projected to have 151 days of instruction this year.
No metro Atlanta districts fell that far below 180 days of instruction. The school districts in Clayton, Cobb and Henry counties were projected to have 175 days of instruction this year. DeKalb and Fulton counties have scheduled 177 days of instruction. The districts serving the cities of Atlanta and Decatur, and Cherokee, Fayette and Gwinnett counties were scheduled to have 180 days of instruction.
So why are some districts opening their doors for so many fewer days? Money, they say.
Some districts, such as Stewart, raised their property tax rate by four mills in one year, the AJC reported. The district adopted a four-day week to cope with budget cuts.
Barge was a bit off on his numbers. There were not six school districts that had 150 or fewer days of classroom instruction during the last school year. The total was four. Three districts have scheduled fewer than 150 days of instruction while two plan 151 days of classroom instruction.
Barge was close. And he did qualify his statement by saying "about" six districts have 150 or fewer days of instruction. We rate his statement Mostly True.
City of Stockbridge videos, Town Hall Meeting on the ABC’s of Common Core Standards, Oct. 17, 2013, https://esenetworks.com/videos.aspx?id=735
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "As budgets shrink, so does school year," July 29, 2013
Email from Matt Cardoza, director of communications, Georgia Department of Education, Oct. 22, 2013
PolitiFact Georgia, "Candidate Barge, Superintendent Barge sometimes differ on Common Core," Sept. 12, 2013, www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2013/oct/04/john-barge/candidate-barge-superintendent-barge-sometimes-dif/
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