Liberty, Prue Schools save money with 4-day school week

Department of Education report is ‘inconclusive’

In the past six years, Liberty Schools in South Tulsa County have decreased their expenditures by $167,522 by going to a four-day school week.

That’s according to a study commissioned by the state of 16 of the 97 public school districts in the state who have gone to four-day weeks.

The 16 schools in the study have been offering four-day weeks for at least six years.

For the 2016-17 school year, the number of districts on a four-day school week nearly doubled from the previous year.

In Prue Schools (near Lake Keystone), expenditures decreased by $111,531.

That is a significant savings for smaller districts.

Liberty and Prue are the only two in the study near Tulsa. Both had slight dips in average attendance, with Liberty down 36 students and Prue down only 13 students on average.

The biggest savings for Liberty has been in the cost of support staff and transportation costs while utilities and food stayed steady.

In Prue, there was a huge drop in transportation costs and a lesser drop in support staff while food stayed the same and utilities roses slightly.

According to the report, with combined expenditures, on average the small districts spent $2,714 less on food, $1,971 less on transportation, $8,542 more on support staff and $4,523 on utilities.

Seven districts spent less on average with a four-day week while nine spent slightly more. An increase in enrollment during those six years could account for the increased cost in some districts. Three districts spent less money even though their daily attendance increased.

The report looked at expenditures from fiscal year 2008-2009 through fiscal year 2015-2016 for the following districts: Fort Towson, Midway, Wilson, Swink, Lone Wolf, Battiest, Valliant, Avant, Barnsdall, Prue, Asher, Moyers, Rattan, Straight, Liberty (Tulsa County) and Sharon-Mutual. These districts switched to a four-day week beginning in fiscal year 2011-2012.

Even so, the report concludes that “we can find no conclusive evidence to support the theory that four-day school weeks save districts money.”

“School boards care deeply about students, but it is important that they have accurate information,” said State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. ”There is a perception that there will be significant cost savings from a four-day school week, but the results of our survey were inconclusive, and the savings that did occur were very marginal.  We believe the cost to students is far too great to consider the four-day week as a long-term strategy.“

A measure in this year’s state legislative session, House Bill 1684, would require districts considering a four-day school week to submit a plan to OSDE detailing the goals that the district hopes to accomplish by shortening the school week.

The measure is authored by Rep. Harold Wright and Sen. Eddie Fields.

“A plan would help spell out the anticipated savings,” Hofmeister said. “It will allow districts to go back and measure results.”