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Good Question: Is Minnesota's School Year Too Short?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Minnesota school kids start school later than kids in any other state, by law, it's after Labor Day. So do Minnesota kids spend less time in the classroom than in other states?

"If you look purely at the numbers, Minnesota does spend a little less time in the classroom than other states," said Charlene Briner, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Education.

Minnesota's legislature passed an education law during the special summer session, unifying the minimum hours of classroom instruction per year:

• 425 hours for kindergarten (equivalent of 170 days @ 2.5 hours)

• 935 hours grades 1 - 6 (equivalent of 170 days @ 5.5 hours)

• 1,020 hours grades 7 -12 (equivalent of 170 days @ 6 hours)

Lunch doesn't count, so it works out to 170 days. In Iowa, and Wisconsin, and most of the nation the minimum is 180.

The average for Minnesota public schools, according to Briner, is 174 days.

"Some have more, some have a little less," she said.

Most schools throw in a buffer so they don't have to make up snow days.

Of course, different states have different definitions for "classroom instruction," but Minnesota's law is similar to Iowa and Wisconsin. In-service training doesn't count, lunch doesn't count, only when school is open, students in all grade levels are there, and teaching is happening.

So is the school year in Minnesota too short?

"That is an ongoing debate," said Briner, "A couple years ago, President Obama proposed making the school year longer."

Some were pushing for a national minimum of 200 days of education.

Finland is in school 190 days a year. Australia spends 200 days in class, their summer break is a month and a half from mid-December to late-January. Japan is in school 243 days.

"We have to remember, longer school years take more money," said Briner. "With all the economic pressures we're under, building more time into the school year is a challenge we have to grapple with."

When looking at Minnesota compared to the rest of the country, Briner pointed out, "We lead the nation in ACT scores, obviously we're doing something right in the classroom."

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