Sandwiched between Governor Patrick’s call for major increases in spending for early childhood education and public higher education is a modest bump of $5 million to extend the school day in fiscal year 2014. The money is focused precisely where it belongs — middle school students in high-poverty districts.
State-funded pilot programs in 19 schools have shown that adding an average 95 minutes to the school day provides opportunities for both academic catch-up and the kinds of enrichment programs — arts, music, and sports — that are standard fare for students in higher-income communities. The proposed budget increase is only enough to extend these efforts to a small number of new schools. But it is meant to signal that the initiative has moved out of the experimental stage and into the mainstream of high-poverty schools.