Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #103

Welcome to Hall Pass, a newsletter written to keep you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues: The debate over four-day school weeks
  • In your district: reader replies on preparing citizens 
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • An introduction to the four-day school week 
  • Extracurricular: education news and numbers from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over four-day school weeks 

In this section, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on the issues school board members deliberate when they set out to offer the best education possible in their district. Missed an issue? Click here to see the previous education debates we’ve covered.

Today, we’ll look at a pair of opinions on a proposed New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) issued in late 2023 that would have required schools to use a five-day school week. The PED published the final rule—which allows four-day calendars if schools meet certain proficiency data standards—in the New Mexico Register on March 14, 2024.

Rebecca Biage wrote the proposal was an ineffective one-size-fits-all approach. Biage said the quality of instructional days in her school district outweighed the potential benefits of more school days. She also said the rule overlooked family involvement as an important contributor to educational success.

Paul Bates wrote in response to Biage’s article that four-day school weeks reduce educational achievement. Bates says parents are not sufficiently involved in education. Bates says that’s why schools need to take a larger, not smaller, role in engaging students in the absence of parental support. He also says four-day school weeks create unnecessary childcare burdens.

We take a closer look at the four-day school week further down in this edition.

OPINION: PED has tunnel vision on 5-day school weeks | Rebecca Biage, Albuquerque Journal

“While PED is disappointed with certain numerical results from their studies, there is no guarantee that implementing a five-day week to those 39 districts will move New Mexico’s overall education status to a higher level. The high school in my [four-day school week] district has a graduation rate of 82%, one that surpasses the current state high school graduation rate of 76%. As an educator it’s left me wondering if PED has sufficiently analyzed how their own revamping of the state standards has contributed to those numerical results. Their cookie-cutter approach of prioritizing quantity over quality is not always the best solution. … The education department can lead with the perspective that by adding more days, shaking up state standards or by increasing professional development for teachers that those items combined are the remedy for our state’s education issues. However, there are other items missing from the mix, one in particular — emphasizing the important role of family, or guardian, involvement in a child’s education.”

OPINION: 4-day school weeks won’t improve education | Paul Bates, Albuquerque Journal

“In response to Rebecca Biage’s column of Dec. 17 titled ‘PED has tunnel vision on five-day school weeks,’ the one thing she seems to have left out is any data at all that indicates that her four-day school plan has any chance of improving education in New Mexico. Part of what we are seeing — I am a retired APS teacher — is a lack of parental involvement in children’s education. Biage acknowledges this. What in the world would make us think that these children who stay up late playing their electronic games, will actually take on the responsibility to complete their homework assignments on their new day off? Teachers have trouble getting back overnight assignments — what would make us think it will be different with this change? … That extra day off could also cause some real child care issues for parents who work at businesses that cannot afford to reduce their availability to the public consumer. In a state troubled by its education statistics, I don’t think this is the time to (change) school weeks.”

In your district: reader replies on preparing citizens 

We recently asked readers the following question about successful innovations in their districts:

What should schools be doing to prepare students for their roles as citizens? 

Thank you to all who responded. Today, we’re sharing a handful of those responses. We’ll return next month with another reader question. If you have ideas for a question you’d like to see us ask, reply to this email to let us know!

A school board member from Illinois wrote:

Insisting students get passing grades in ELA and Mathematics is most important. Mandatory business or economics studies in high school. Understanding government in both state and U.S. Constitutions and laws without political ideology.

A school board member from Michigan wrote:

Teaching k-5 the basics of reading, writing, math, American and local history,and logic; teaching how to apply information and evaluate it 6-12 while building further in math, science, literature, civics, history.  Also encourage physical activity and health habits.

A community member from Nevada wrote

Focusing on social/emotional learning

A community member from Texas wrote:

Learn how to balance bank accounts, keep a budget, type, spell, basic math, divisions of government and why, how to look up candidates and their voting records, how NOT to vote (because my friends/parent/etc do it like this) I am sure there is more…

A former teacher wrote

Teaching traditional academics instead of wasting time on social emotional learning.

A school board member from New Jersey wrote:

To teach civics in a more in depth fashion.  

A school board member from Pennsylvania wrote:

Include curriculum covering the nation’s foundational documents in grades 7-9, and for grades 10- 12 include curriculum introducing classic philosophers and contemporary commentators/authors on the rights and obligations of citizens.  Courses should be mandatory, not optional.

School board update: filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications

In 2023, Ballotpedia covered elections for over 9,000 school board seats in more than 3,000 districts across 34 states. We’re expanding our coverage each year with our eye on the more than 13,000 districts with elected school boards. 

Upcoming school board elections

In the next 30 days, Ballotpedia will cover school board elections in six states—Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. All of the elections will take place April 2. 

Below, you’ll find a sample of those elections. 


Three seats on the Anchorage School District school board in Alaska are up for general election on April 2. 


We’re covering elections in the following eight districts in Missouri on April 2:


We’re covering all school board elections in Wisconsin this year.

There are 1,205 candidates running for 943 seats across the state. But most of those seats—535, or 57%—are uncontested. An uncontested race is one where the number of candidates on the ballot is less than or equal to the number of seats up for election.

The uncontested rate in Wisconsin is effectively unchanged since last year when 58% of the state’s school board seats had no contest.

An introduction to the four-day school week 

Since the beginning of the 20th century, the norm has been for public and private school students to attend classes Monday through Friday. But over the last decade, an increasing number of K-12 public schools have considered an idea that would upend the traditional calendar—the four-day school week.

The number of districts with four-day school weeks is small but growing. This year, school board members in states like Idaho, Iowa, Texas, and elsewhere are exploring the four-day school week option. State lawmakers in several states, like Oklahoma, Missouri, and Louisiana, are considering bills limiting the four-day school week.

Here’s what to know about the four-day school week. 

The history of the four-day school week

The four-day school week is largely a modern phenomenon. Interest in the idea increased following the 2008 recession and the COVID-19 pandemic. According to education researcher Christine Donis‐Keller, a handful of districts in South Dakota first experimented with four-day school weeks in the 1930s. Throughout the 1970s, districts in Maine, Massachusetts, and New Jersey briefly adopted the four-day school week to reduce operating costs before returning students to classes five days a week. 

Here’s what we know about where districts are adopting a four-day school week

There is no centralized database of the districts that have adopted the four-day school week, making it challenging to know how widespread the practice is. What we do know is that interest in the schedule is growing. 

According to Oregon State University Professor Paul Thompson, the four-day school week “was used in approximately 1607 schools in 662 school districts nationwide as of the 2018–2019 school year.” That number has increased to approximately 900 districts in at least 25 states as of 2023. 

In many states, only a handful of districts use the four-day school week. Most of those are located in rural areas. In California, for example, two districts were known to use a four-day school week at the beginning of 2023. That’s because state law requires districts to hold five-day school weeks or lose funding. 

In the 2022-2023 school year, Missouri, Colorado, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Idaho had the most districts using the four-day school week. In Missouri around 30% of all districts use the schedule—up from 12% before the pandemic. In Colorado, 67% of districts use a four-day school week. In Idaho, that figure is around 50%

Here’s why districts adopt a four-day school week

District leaders, like superintendents and school board members, have listed several motivations for embracing the four-day school week, including saving money and attracting teachers. Rural districts, which tend to have higher operating costs and lower funding than their urban counterparts, have been more likely to turn to the four-day school week. An estimated 90% of districts with the four-day school week are classified as rural, and nearly half enroll fewer than 200 students. 

Not all districts with a four-day school week are small and rural, though. For example, Colorado School District 27J, the 15th largest district in the state with around 20,000 students, switched to a four-day school week in 2018. 

Here’s how the four-day school week works

Districts using a four-day school week have some flexibility in how they implement the schedule. In a 2020 study of 665 districts, Thompson and co-writers found “84.2 percent use a Friday-off day, 14.4 percent use a Monday-off day, and less than 1 percent use a combination of off days.”

To meet minimum instructional time requirements set at the state level, districts using a four-day school week typically lengthen the instructional time students receive each day. However, in an article for Brookings, Thompson and co-author Emily Morton found “students on four-day weeks spend about 85 fewer hours per year at school. Some of that time is likely to be lost instructional time, but a portion of it is also non-instructional time, like lunch, recess, and hallway passing time.” 

What do districts do during the off day? Thompson and his co-writers found “48.2 percent responded that buildings were fully closed or no academic services were offered to students or teachers on the off day. An additional 29.7 percent had some type of remedial or enrichment activities on the off day.” 

In a 2021 study of 26 districts in Idaho, South Dakota, New Mexico, Missouri, and Oklahoma using the four-day school week, researchers at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research institute, found “Eighty percent of high school students and 90 percent of elementary school students reported that they spent the fifth day primarily at home—for example, doing chores or homework.” They also found that most teachers reported using the extra day for both work—like grading papers—and personal errands. 

What are the main arguments for and against moving to a four-day school week? 

Arguments for and against the four-day school week have tended to focus on district finances, student achievement, and teacher recruitment and retention. 

Proponents argue the four-day school week can save districts money, improve test scores and other measures of student achievement, and help districts recruit and retain teachers.

Opponents argue four-day school weeks lead to lower test scores and disadvantage families without the means for childcare. They also say teacher shortages have more to do with salaries than scheduling.

Extracurricular: education news and numbers from around the web

This section contains links to recent education-related articles from around the internet. If you know of a story we should be reading, reply to this email to share it with us! 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Today, we’re looking at survey responses from two candidates running in April 2 school board elections in Missouri and Wisconsin. 

Mariah Roady is on the ballot in the general election for Center School District Board of Education. Da’Jion Lymore and Michael Sarver are also on the ballot. Two seats are up for election this year. Roady was the only candidate to complete the survey.

Marie Vandenberg is on the ballot in the general election for Clintonville School District. Three at-large seats are up for election this year. Klint Barkow, Ben Huber, and Kris Strauman are also running in the election. Vandenberg was the only one to complete the survey. 

Here’s how Roady answered the question, “What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

  • “I’m a Parent: Through personal connections as a Center School District parent and leading a community-based nonprofit, I plan on seeking out/facilitating intentional opportunities to allow our community experts, particularly our students and families, to share input. If elected, I will work tirelessly to promote student and family focused solutions to ensure children receive the support they need to not only survive but thrive.
  • I’m an Advocate: We must promote a broader culture and celebration of equity by addressing key equity challenges in schools, including teachers matching their racial and other identities, culturally relevant assignments, and research-based, non-discriminatory disciplinary policies.
  • I’m an Education Champion: We must do a better job for our students and families by investing in our community leaders: educators. I’d love to see administrators and the Board of Education work diligently to ensure our direct service providers have ample opportunities to learn, grow, and fortify their skills. After all, that’s the kind of example we want to set for our students; it only makes sense for leadership to embody that same kind of spirit.”

Click here to read the rest of Roady’s responses. 

Here’s how Vandenberg answered the question, “What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

  • “I want to improve communication and transparency within the Clintonville School District. I want the community at large to be involved in decisions at the school level. I will make myself available for those discussions.
  • Nothing bad ever comes from open conversation.
  • I am passionate about the Clintonville School District, and I want the district and its students to excel. We are a small town and we should be proud of it. We should be using our small town strengths to our advantage. I will consider what is best for everyone, and help the Clintonville School Board create a strong and flourishing school district.”

Click here to read the rest of Vandenberg’s responses.

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey. If you’re not running for school board, but there is an election in your community this year, share the link with the candidates and urge them to take the survey!

In the 2022 election cycle, 6,087 candidates completed the survey. 
The survey contains more than 30 questions, and you can choose the ones you feel will best represent your views to voters. If you complete the survey, a box with your answers will display on your Ballotpedia profile. Your responses will also appear in our sample ballot.