Michigan school children need to spend weeks longer in school than they do now, Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Tuesday, and she’d like lawmakers to require the school year to last more than 180 days.

The state now requires districts to be in session for at least 165 days and will increase the minimum to 170 days in the 2012-13 academic year. Michigan last had a 180-day requirement in the 2002-03 school year, then switched to requiring 1,098 hours. In response, many districts lengthened the school day and reduced the number of weeks school was in session to cut costs.

READ MORE: Ribs RnB Music Festival Kicks Off This Weekend In Downtown Detroit

A study released last year by The Center for Michigan found fewer than 2 percent of state school districts were in session for 180 days or more in the 2007-08 academic year. More than 40 percent of districts met for fewer than 170 days, and many districts didn’t meet the 1,098 hours standard because of snow days and other class time reductions.

 Granholm, who has pushed for tougher school curriculum, testing and graduation standards during her eight years as governor, said that’s not acceptable.

“Other countries and other states are requiring more of their students, and we’ve got to do the same,” she told reporters after greeting students at Lansing’s Mount Hope Elementary School on the first day of class.  “Parents … understand that they want their kids to be able to be successful in college and in life, and if that means more time learning, so be it.”

A lobbyist for the Michigan Association of School Administrators agrees Michigan students need more classroom time to be competitive with the rest of the world. But he questions the commitment of Granholm and state lawmakers to a longer school year when they’re not willing to put additional money into public education.

READ MORE: Judge Says Michigan Gov. Whitmer Won't Have To Testify In Abortion Lawsuit

“Lengthening the number of days takes money, and it’s very difficult to do that when the same governor and the same Legislature is cutting our funding,” Brad Biladeau said.  “Every school district in the state works to provide as many days as they can. Unfortunately, when you’re looking at cost, eventually you have to get additional revenue to pay for those days.”

Granholm is pushing to use hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus school aid money to help fill a deficit in the current budget. The money would go to community colleges.

Biladeau said if the governor would leave the money in the school aid fund, it might be available to help extend the school year. Districts got an $11-per-student increase this summer and for the 2010-11 academic year, but lost at least $165 per student in the 2009-2010 academic year because of budget cuts. Districts have been forced to freeze wages and require employees to pay more of their health care coverage costs even without the requirement to hold classes on more days.

“There’s a tremendous amount of inconsistencies between the talk and the action,” Biladeau said. He added that a law forbidding school districts to start classes before Labor Day also makes it harder to extend the school year, but Granholm disagreed.

MORE NEWS: MDHHS Lifts No-Contact Recommendation In Huron River Chemical Spill

“Giving families an extra bit of time to vacation together right before Labor Day is not the issue. It’s the amount of time” students spend in class once the school year starts, she said.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)