Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Education, More Economic Failure?

President Obama is advocating a longer school year and it's not just the kids who are complaining.

The president says kids in the U.S. spend too little time in the classroom, putting them at a disadvantage when competing with students from other countries. He has suggested that making school days longer, and extending the school year will increase learning, raise test scores and close the achievement gap. But will the expansion acheive the goal the president is striving for?

Critics say that if the school year is extended it will hurt many districts because they'll have to retrofit older buildings with air conditioning which will raise their utility bills to unaffordable levels. Overtime for teachers will also have to be paid which can destroy a smaller district's budget at a time when money is already tight.

Another problem with the proposed change is the detrimental effect that it is sure to have on the travel and leisure industry which relies on summer family vacation travel as a major source of revenue.

Speaking to, Joe McInerney, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association said that fewer vacation days will dry up the industry's labor source and lead to huge losses of revenue for American hotels and resorts.

As an example, in the New Jersey shore area alone, the average cost of a rental home is $1,500 to $2,000 a week. In the tourist town of Wildwood, approximately 7 million visitors flood the boardwalks, beaches, and restaurants from mid-June to September, spending over $185 million on hotels and prepared food and beverages alone. (according to John Siciliano, executive director of the Wildwood Tourism Authority.) The figures do not include dollars spent in retail stores, and amusement park rides in the area which could triple the $185 million dollar figure.

Another area that would be hit hard by the change is the summer camp industry which relies on thousands of school kids each year to fill camp counselor positions. If the kids are in school there will be no counselors and no campers which will destroy the 150 year old business.

While the president is correct in looking at the problem that American kids have when competing with students from across the globe, the negative economic impacts of extending the school day and year must be considered.

Can we really afford to add more stress to an economy that is already buckling under the strain of record unemployment, small business bankruptcy and major industrial failure? This is yet another example of why any person who is given the job of president must be willing to look at all aspects of a situation before moving forward with a plan.

Ideas are great and should be the basis of an open dialogue with everyone who has something to gain or lose if they are enacted into law. While something must be done to ensure that our American students are making the grade in the area of academics, it should not be done at the expense of our economic future.

As the debate moves forward, one can only hope that this is one time where the president will not act according to his typical nature and will finally realize that true leadership means listening to all of the expert input before moving forward with a decision. Listening is an important skill Mr. President and should be the basis for any final decision that you make, even if it ultimately means that you are wrong.

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