4-Day Work Week Getting More Popular

Companies look for ways to save money and jobs

Friday, Mar 13, 2009  |  Updated 8:00 AM CDT
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4-Day Work Week Getting More Popular

Several states and school districts are considering the four-day work week in an effort to save jobs and money.

It may be enviable for many full-time workers and it's being touted as a way to save jobs and money. So why aren't we all doing the four-day work week?

Utah's state government adopted a four-day work week last summer. Now other states are taking notice.

Utah initially made the switch to save money on electricity, gasoline and other energy expenses, according to a recent Fox News report.  Unpredictable prices in the energy market made hopes of saving about $3 million unattainable, but enough was saved to consider the experiment a success.

Another goal of the four-day work week is to help stave off layoffs, Fox said. True, it requires longer days of its workers, but companies can juggle payroll numbers in such a way that, in theory, fewer jobs would be lost.

The change is being tried elsewhere now. 

Fox reports that, "Hawaii tried a limited four-day week this fall, and a similar program is under way in Washington state. Lawmakers in West Virginia and Virginia are studying whether a four-day work week would make sense for them."

Additionally, the Associated Press is reporting that a number of school districts across the nation are considering going to a four-day week to save money on operating costs. 
 
By extending school hours and eliminating a day of classes each week, education officials say they could save busloads of money on transportation and utilities. Select districts in about 17 states already follow a four-day week and legislators in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Missouri and Washington have introduced related proposals.

New Mexico went to the four-day week during the 1970s oil crisis, and the schedule is gaining fresh momentum in states and districts hurt by the economic downturn.

"It's happening primarily because of the economic situation," said Gale Gaines, vice president for state services at the Southern Regional Education Board. "Schools and districts are trying to work as efficiently as possible."

Since the early 1970s, the four-day school week has primarily
been adopted by small, rural districts that shuttle students long
distances. By cutting one school day a week, they were able to save
on transportation, food and utility costs.

In South Florida, the Broward County school district, just north
of Miami, is considering the four-day week for its high schools.
Broward, the sixth-largest school district in the nation, spends a
whopping $63 million on electricity every year, Superintendent
James Notter said.

With Florida schools expecting another round of budget cuts,
Notter estimates a four-day week could save the district 10 to 15
percent in utilities.

Florida state Sen. Evelyn Lynn who introduced the bill that
would grant schools flexibility in determining the number of days
they hold class, said the current economy demands creative
solutions.

"I don't think we've ever had such a tight and challenging
economy in the state of Florida," said Lynn, a Republican.

While there's still debate about how much districts will save,
proponents say the shortened week can improve attendance and
teacher retention. As for academics, studies have shown the
four-day schedule does not hinder student achievement, and may even
help improve test scores.

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