Tweaking the work week


Hey, this sounds strangely familiar.

According to a study conducted last year by the American Federation of Teachers with the Rand Corporation, one in four teachers were thinking about quitting their job by the end of the school year. Teachers were also more likely to report experiencing regular job-related stress and symptoms of depression than the general population, according to the study.

Texas has one solution.

A local school district in Texas has announced plans to reduce students’ school weeks from the traditional five days to four days for the upcoming 2022-2023 school year.

The Jasper Independent School District cited teacher shortage and retention when it announced the change in a Facebook post last month and said it had conducted surveys with parents, teachers and staffers before the change was voted on by its board of trustees.

Also, pay them a little more.

Teachers would get a $3,000 stipend while staff members, such as librarians, would receive $1,500 if they remain with Jasper ISD. The funds allocated would come from the public school district’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) grants, a federal grant program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

They are having longer school days to compensate, so it’s not exactly free time. I’m also wondering what parents think: 4 day school weeks and 5 day work weeks don’t line up neatly, and there’s going to be an increased demand for day care.

Unless employers in the region go to 4 day work weeks, which wouldn’t be a bad idea…

Comments

  1. yoav says

    Texas has one solution.

    I immediately made the assumption it was going to be a jeeezusy horrible idea, probably with some bigotry sprinkled all over, nice to have a pleasant surprise once in a while.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    At some level of ignorance, the state will simply collapse. Hint; the Texas electricity grid.
    The smart grifters want the system to limp along another generation, so they pay attention to education. I am too cynical to attribute altruism to their actions.
    For more qualified work, they will probably have to hire northerners one day. I doubt they will invest in nobel prize- level education.

  3. brettvk says

    In Missouri many rural school districts have gone to four-day schedules, but it’s because the legislature has cut funding to the bone and the districts can’t tax themselves into five-day solvency.

  4. says

    You know, at some point some Republican super-genius is going to announce that if they have a zero day school week and everyone was homeschooled, they could save a bucket of money.

  5. anat says

    I could do with a 4 day work week if I got to choose which days those would be. If I was required to work 4 consecutive days with 3 consecutive days off I would have to come in once every weekend so what would be the point?

  6. JustaTech says

    Years ago I read about a very small, very rural school district, I think in Death Valley, that had a four-day school week specifically because the bus ride to school was so long that it was exhausting the students, eating into instruction time and (maybe) very expensive for gas. But that was a single school of less than 50 kids.

  7. Walter Solomon says

    How about making the fifth day a study hall? It would be less demand on the teachers and the kids will have a place to go on Friday relieving their parents of having to find a babysitter.

  8. mmfwmc says

    The 4 day week thing sounds great to office workers and makes sense – most office workers can actually be more productive. But there are a lot of other industries where a 4 day work week means a 25% increase in costs.

    For instance, a factory might produce a unit every 40 seconds. The only way that staff can be more productive is to make fewer errors (which are a serious problem, but not 25% of costs). So productivity will go down and the factory will need to hire 25% more staff to work the remaining day. Likewise, doctors. The only way for them to increase their productivity would be to shorten appointment times by more than 20%. This does not sound like a good thing. Where are restaurants going to put the 25% more tables that their staff will need to handle simultaneously?

    Now, some companies could still absorb a 25% increase in staff costs. But many can’t. Let’s say that you have a 5% profit margin and a labour cost of 30% of revenue (this is reasonable for a factory that is already fairly automated). Increasing the labour costs by 25% means that the company is now making a 2.5% loss. Now the workers have a zero day work week.

    The only way that companies will be able to do this is a large investment in automation. Which will probably end up reducing the number of staff required. So more staff have a zero day work week.

    So sure, if you are an academic or an office worker, go for the 4 day week. But remember that most people don’t have jobs that require sitting in front of keyboards are not going to get this.

  9. mmfwmc says

    Of course, the other alternative is to increase prices without increasing staff costs. So you have inflation. Meaning your staff take a pay cut (effectively). Basically, there is no way to get a universal 4 day week without taking a pay cut. And that is especially likely to hit those who work in manual jobs and hospitality. Basically, the ones that we as progressives are meant to care about most. So I’m against it, even though it would benefit me personally (I have a desk job and could easily justify it as a productivity boost).

  10. John Morales says

    mmfwmc, ahem. A third alternative is to pay pro-rata, and hire more people.
    These days, with computers, the extra human resources overhead would be negligible.

    (You do know that most manufactories already employ shifts, right? Equipment does not stand idle)

  11. mmfwmc says

    @Joh Morales. Yes I know this, because it is obvious. I would suggest you think about the kind of person who can give a reasonable breakdown of the profit margins and labour costs of a factory and then think about what else they might know.

    But if you pay pro rata then the staff take a 20% pay cut. This is not the point of the 4 day week movement. The argument is that people can be as productive in 4 days as they can in 5, therefore, pay 5 days wages for 4 days work. This is nonsense for the vast majority of people, especially people on lower wages.

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2021/jul/12/four-day-week-not-if-it-means-a-pay-cut-say-british-workers
    “White-collar workers and people in top-paying jobs were the most willing to cut working hours, even if it led to a salary reduction. In contrast, care workers and people employed in hospitality were among those who said they would rather work more hours than currently.

    People working in banking, finance and insurance, along with those in professional occupations, were among those most likely to say they wanted a reduction in their working hours, representing around one in seven staff in the sector.

    Conversely, one in seven people working in the hospitality sector were likely to say they wanted to work for longer.”

  12. John Morales says

    mmfwmc, when you wrote “the other alternative is [X]” I noted there’s at least one more alternative. And yes, it is obvious that is the case, so you really should have written “another alternative” instead.

    The argument is that people can be as productive in 4 days as they can in 5, therefore, pay 5 days wages for 4 days work. This is nonsense for the vast majority of people, especially people on lower wages.

    Is it?
    8 hours per day for 5 days is 40 hours’ work.
    10 hours per day for 4 days is 40 hours’ work.

    You quote: “[…] People working in banking, finance and insurance, along with those in professional occupations, were among those most likely to say they wanted a reduction in their working hours, representing around one in seven staff in the sector.

    Conversely, one in seven people working in the hospitality sector were likely to say they wanted to work for longer.”

    Not surprising; people working in the hospitality sector tend to earn a lot less per hour.

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