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BCTF Research Report

Section XII

Cost Effectiveness of Year-Round Schooling
An Annotated Bibliography and Synthesis of the Research

By Charlie Naylor, BCTF Research and Technology Division
May 1995

What does the research say about cost effectiveness of year round schooling?

Some of the literature on this issue is clearly promoting YRS, with little detailed analysis of savings or increased expenditure for either capital or operating costs. Ballinger (1987, 1993) perhaps epitomizes this end of the spectrum. There does not appear to be an obvious opposition to the movement in favour of year-round schooling, with the possible exception of the (to date) mild input of Canadian teacher unions, such as those in Ontario and Alberta. The American unions appear unconcerned with the issue now, although they were much more concerned during processes of implementation which they saw as imposed rather than negotiated.

The issue of cost effectiveness is very complex, and much of the analysis in the literature appears inadequate. Reasons for such complexity include variation in models and locations, the range of cost factors involved, ways in which cost factors have been assessed, and the numbers and sizes of schools going year-round. The best and most objective articles are those by the Carleton Board (1992), Zykowski (1991) et al and Hough (1990). These papers have attempted to make a realistic analysis of a difficult issue-whether year round schooling does in fact save money, and for whom. They suggest that there is no single answer, and that it very much depends on the model and scope of the year round project.

It appears reasonable to conclude that year-round schooling has the potential to save money but it may not in fact do so. In some American districts costs have been reduced and in others they have increased. A combination of factors should exist in order to maximise cost effectiveness (see Kreitzer 1990), but if some of these factors are missing, then the likelihood of savings appears much reduced. When considering that such factors include removing options from parents by making year-round schooling mandatory for their children without the option of a traditional calendar, and changing teacher contracts, then any implementation of yearround schooling which included such factors may be problematic for both parents and teachers. Whether the full combination of factors listed by Kreitzer would be possible at the current time in BC is somewhat unlikely, with the Minister and many of the pilot districts having stated that there will be choices for parents between traditional and year-round calendars. However, as the limited costeffectiveness of pilots becomes apparent, the views of the government may become less benign if their will to reduce capital spending is maintained.

In some cases, year-round schooling has clearly cost more (see the NEA study (1987) and Zykowski et al, 1991). In Hough's paper, there is an interesting discussion of three sets of costs: to school districts, to the state/province and to taxpayers. In some cases cost savings for one of these may mean cost increases for another. In the BC context, if district operating expenses went up and provincial capital expenses were down, there could be an offloading of costs from the province to the districts, with increased costs for taxpayers at the local level but a purported saving by the province. This is why districts want some understanding that there must be a 'win-win' situation for them to continue with year-round schooling. They want some assurance that much of the capital costs that would have been incurred will flow to them to pay for increased operating costs, even if the amount is less than the anticipated capital costs that would have occurred with new construction.

One issue barely addressed in the literature concerns the costs of itinerant staff such as ESL and special needs resource teachers, psychologists, etc. If the province has a policy of maximum integration then services such as those provided by itinerant staff must also be provided yearround, with the possibility of significant cost increases. White (1990) estimated that such costs increased by 33%.

Another factor to consider may be the condition of buildings where year-round schooling is being planned. Smith (1992) states that year-round schooling in older school buildings may be problematic in that they may not be cost-effective. Smith's paper suggests that much of the apparent savings from some year-round schooling projects may be from postponing inevitable maintenance and/or construction spending, so that savings appear more dramatic when delayed maintenance costs are ignored. In this scenario, older buidings are more heavily used and poorly maintained so that both capital and operating costs are reduced in the short term.

It appears highly unlikely that cost savings will occur from pilot projects and that many more schools in any given district would need to be year-round before economies of scale are significant.

If we can learn anything from the literature it is that detailed cost analysis needs to be undertaken in each district. The proposed pilots should be assessed within the context of current district facilities and in view of the actual and potential student population. A range of variables should also be considered in both capital and operating costs and in the context of BC government policies which promote maximum integration of ESL students and students with special needs. District policies such as neighbourhood schools should also be considered, for if all students are entitled to services in such schools then costs may rise. In addition, the costs of adapting pedagogical, assessment, and reporting practices may need to be considered. Would exams be at different times, and would this be a cost factor? District data collection and reporting practices will also have to change, as the September 30 headcount will not include all students if the district has a year round program. This will also be a cost increase.

The above considerations are by no means exhaustive, but are intended to give a sense of some of the factors that should be included in a cost analysis of year round schooling. I have not listed the more obvious factors which are, for instance, listed in the questions developed by the Durham Board of Education and shared by Nanaimo teachers in the packages already distributed to locals. These form a useful basis for identifying which factors to include in terms of cost analysis, in conjunction with the questions that may be generated from a consideration of studies described in this bibliography.

If you have an article or paper which may be useful to add to the bibliography, please send a copy or a reference to Charlie Naylor at the BCTF and it will be included it in any updated version of the bibliography.

  • Ballinger, Charles. Year-round Education: It's Time. Chapter in Timepiece: Extending and Enhancing Learning Time. Edited by Lorin W. Anderson and Herbert J. Walberg. Reston, Virginia: National Association of Secondary School Principals, 1993. p.30-34.

    Ballinger is one of the most vociferous proponents of YRS. In this paper he links YRS to a longer school year, intended to improve students' preparedness for work in a technological society. He also states that this form of extending the school year will cost more for additional salaries, utilities and supplies.

  • Ballinger, C.E., Kirschenbaum, N. & Poimbeauf R. P. The Year Round School: Where Learning Never Stops. Phi Delta Kappan Educational Foundation, 1987.

    Concludes that multi-track programs 'have the potential' to save in both capital and operating costs. Estimates the savings from Oxnard to be $1,000,000 annually in operating costs and $5,000,000 in total capital savings to date, expected to increase to $10,000,000 over a four year period.

  • Barrington, Stephen. Year-round Schooling Has Healthy Bottom Line. Vancouver Sun. August 21, 1991, S16.

    Very limited article, concluding that YRS could have a healthy bottom line, without any detail except a saving on portables.

  • B.C. Education News. "Seven School Districts to Study YRS." (Nov. 1994), p.3.

    A lop-sided description of YRS, with every benefit but no problems listed, useful as an example of how inadequate information has been provided by the Ministry of Education on this topic.

  • B.C. Ministry of Education. "Discussion Paper on Year Round Education." Victoria, Year-round Education Committee, 1992.

    Lists 3 financial benefits (capital cost savings, extra pay for teachers working off-track and reduced vandalism) and 5 concerns (industry's dependence on summer labour force, increased operational costs, down time for maintenance, renegotiation of collective agreements and increased use of district staff time during implementation period. Changes to the block funding system and capital plans are also flagged.

  • B. C. Ministry of Education. Policy Branch, 1994. Yearround Schooling: Some Observations From the Literature.

    A sadly flawed document which makes efforts to avoid detailed consideration of research which casts much doubt on YRS. Only 22 references are provided which represent a very minor yet highly selective part of the literature. None of the references are linked to the text so it is impossible to connect the two. In terms of economic factors, 7 advantages are stated and one disadvantage. Some of the stated advantages (e.g. lower per pupil cost are disputed in the literature, but not questioned in this paper. Oxnard costs for insulation and air conditioning are given as $700,000 per school.

  • Carleton Board of Education. Research and Planning. Alternatives to the Traditional School Year. Nepean, Ontario: Carleton Board of Education, 1992.

    One of the better balanced articles. Quotes a number of studies which are listed below:

    Hough (1990) found that though a district may save money, the province and individual taxpayers may make either a saving or incur a cost - the key factor being operating expenses.
    Ballinger (1987) claims that costs per pupil decrease in a multi-track school.
    Locker (1991) found that single track can be very expensive if they include intersessions for remediation.

  • Carlson, Tim. "Year-round Schooling: B. C.'s Cautious First Step." Education Leader. Vol. 7 No.14 (September 23, 1994), p.1,6.

    A useful background piece with some data concerning six of the pilot districts (not Coquitlam). The data identifies growth rates and capital spending in each district.

  • Carriedo, Ruben A. and Paul D. Goren. "Year-round Education Through Multitrack Schools." Far West Laboratory Policy Briefs. No. 10, (1989), p.1-5.

    States that costs for support personnel increases, in areas such as drivers, counsellors, nurses, curriculum specialists, administrators and clerical staff. Travel costs may increases significantly, as may the new payroll and accounting systems for YRS. States that "the recurring short-term costs for multi-track year round schools over time may approach the sum required to build a new school." Stresses that all support services must be offered year round.

  • Cherry Creek School District: Selected Cost Analysis of Year- round Education Versus Nine Month Education. Draft edition.

    While this study shows cost savings at both operational and capital categories, it is a bizarre analysis. Custodial, utilities and maintenance costs are stated as the same in YRS as in a nine-month calendar, and a range of factors including administrators' salaries are excluded without explanation.

  • Durham Board of Education: Alternate School Year Program, 1990.

    Includes a substantial list of questions to address before initiating YRS, which have been circulated to the seven locals in documents from Nanaimo's package of information on YRS. The document also suggests that a cost analysis projection would be made by the Business Division of the School Board and to judge 'whether the expenditure is reasonable in light of the intended benefits'.

  • Feschuk, Scott. "School's Out for Summer." The Globe and Mail April 11, 1994, p.A1, A4.

    Little reference to cost here though one Calgary trustee worked out that if all of Calgary's teachers took one day less sick leave each year the board would save $500,000, annually and that new schools cost $6m - $10m each.

  • Gandara, Patricia. "Extended Year, Extended Contracts: Increasing Teacher Salary Options." Urban Education vol. 27, No.3 (Oct. 1992), p.229-247.

    Argues that many teachers in the USA leave teaching because of low salaries, and that YRS may be an answer - by teachers working longer and therefore earning more. Sure to go down a treat in BC, at least with the Reform Party.

  • Hough, David, Jane L. Zykowski and James Dick. "Cost Analysis of Year-round Education Programs." Presented to The American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Boston, Massachusetts, April 20, 1990.

    This is a complex paper but indicates that "some districts report cost savings while others report additional costs associated with YRS." The Houston School District Evaluation Report for 1984-85 showed that the YRS program increased operating costs by 37.5% compared to the traditional calendar increase of 8.5%. The authors develop 6 possible scenarios for analyzing costs of YRS. In one scenario, a district was calculated to save 5.56% as a result of YRS while the state increased costs by 6.19%. A second scenario saves a district 13.45% but is based on extending teacher contracts from 184 to 220 days of instruction, thus hiring fewer teachers. In scenario 3, using a figure of 25% of a district going YRS, the district saves 0.61%, the state increases costs by 2.28% and taxpayers' costs increase 1.27%. In Scenario 4, where transition costs per pupil are $50, districts save 4.65%, state costs increase by 6.98% and taxpayer costs increase by 3.01%. Scenario 5 appears irrelevant, as it assumes 100% capital costs to districts. In scenario 6, assuming state/province pays 100% for construction, districts saved 3.54%, the state saved 1.93% and taxpayers saved 1.25%.

  • Howell, V.T. An Examination of Year-Round Education : Pros and Cons That Challenge Schooling in America. 1988.

    States that there is 'some disagreement as to whether there is any definable fiscal advantage to YRS' and quotes a study by Fenwick (1975) which stated that there was no evidence that any operational savings are made. Suggests that instructional costs at the secondary level will increase if existing quality of instruction is maintained and that to realize actual savings, a multi-track system with 75 % of students in school at any time needs to be in place without increasing operating costs. Furthermore, maintaining older buildings with limited years of service might not prove to be more cost-effective than building additional schools.

  • Kirman, Joseph M. "Year-round Schooling: No Hard Evidence." The ATA Magazine. Vol. 74 No. 1 (Nov./Dec. 1993), p.21- 22.

    Kirman sparred with Matheson, a proponent of YRS, in a number of ATA Magazine articles (see G11 - for Matheson paper, which is not discussed in this section as there is little on the cost savings for YRS.)

    Kirman refutes many of Matheson's points and suggests that extra costs are incurred, in areas such as maintenance, administration and upgrading of facilities. Kirman's main point is not that he opposes YRS as such but that it is inappropriate in Alberta.

  • Kreitzer, Amelia and Gene V. Glass. "Policy Considerations in Conversion to Year-round Schools." New Brunswick Educational Administrator. No. 19 (Apr. 1990), p.1-5.

    Some details of the Pajaro Valley School District in California, where YRS saved an estimated 4.1% per pupil saving and reduced operating costs, in spite of increased administrative costs. This appears to have been managed by changing teacher contracts and benefits. The article also states that most districts report increased operating costs after conversion to YRS, particularly in terms of school administrators who become much more involved with schedules and less concerned with instructional supervision. But to make YRS cost-effective, 6 factors are listed (originally in a study by Pelavin, 1979):

    1. YRS schools must be operating at maximum capacity.
    2. Districts refuse to accommodate parents who prefer traditional schools.
    3. Tracks are mandated, not optional.
    4. Community growth rates should continue to rise. 5. Many, not a few schools should be adjusted to YRS. 6. Teacher contracts should be adjusted 'efficiently'.

    This is one of the few articles that suggests options other than YRS might be possible to relieve overcrowding. Suggestions include: scheduling double sessions, use of portables, changing attendance boundaries, or expanding existing buildings.

  • Merino, Barbara J. "The Impact of Year-round Schooling: A Review." Urban Education. Vol. 18, No.3 (Oct. 1983), p.298-316.

    A little dated but does stress the complexity of assessing cost savings. States that 'advocates of YRS have sometimes oversimplified and exaggerated the financial benefits that will accrue to districts on year round schedules.' Savings are estimated at between 5% and 8%, and up to 15% in exceptional circumstances. The study also states: "In some cases savings have been so minimal that year-round schooling has been abandoned after just a few years of implementation. Virginia Beach, Virginia, found that (YRS) students did not differ in achievement of students in 9 month schools and net dollar savings came to only $8 per pupil."

  • Nanaimo School District. Year Round School Committee, "Year Round Education." 1994.

    A useful document in many ways but very limited in its assessment of the financial impact of YRS, quoting only two very selective studies from Oxnard and San Diego and listing only one financial disadvantage, apparently ignoring much of the literature offering a different perspective. Much more useful is a list of factors to include in a consideration of cost analysis of YRS and a good set of questions at the end of the document to consider prior to deciding whether YRS is cost-effective. The document also mentions changes to teacher contracts which have been a cost saving in California but a problem for teachers on call when off- track teachers act as substitutes.

  • National Education Association. Professional and Organizational Development / Research Division. What Research Says About Year-Round Schools. National Education Association. Professional and Organizational Development / Research Division, 1987.

    Presents information about some districts which have saved money under YRS and others where costs have increased. Most studies show a saving of 8% through YRS.

    Hesperia SD, CA, operating costs increased in first year of YRS, because of increased teacher salaries and extra busing costs.

    Hayward SD, CA, showed a 9.9% increase cost of salaries. Mussatti (1981) found increased costs with YRS:

    1. Jefferson County CO, cost increase of $14.39 per student.
    2. Elk Grove - cost increase of $14 per student.
    3. Phoenix cost per student in YRS was $1067 compared to $876 in traditional school
  • Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation. "Brief to the Select Committee on Education." March 1989.

    The OTF brief stated that YRS incurs increased costs for repair and maintenance, largely because of paying overtime costs to fit repairs into tight time spans. Higher costs for air conditioning are also included in the brief, as is wear and tear on textbooks.

  • Parrish, Carole A. "Year-round Schooling Makes Financial and Economic Sense." The American School Board Journal (Oct. 1989), p.34,37.

    A very pro-YRS article about the Marion County, Florida YRS program. Stresses both cost savings and educational gains, and recommends a minimum of 18 months planning time. However, at the time of writing they only had one school which was YR. While yet to be confirmed, we believe that there are at this time no year round schools in Marion County.

  • Province of British Columbia. Legislative Assembly. Official Report of the Debates of the Legislative Assembly (Hansard). 3rd Session, 35th Parliament. Vol. 16, No.10. Monday, June 13, 1994. p.11825-11826. Victoria, BC: Queen's Printer, 1994.

    Some of the debate in the BC parliament, with Minister of Education Charbonneau clearly identifying cost-saving as a major factor in his interest in YRS. He also includes comments on the educational advantages of YRS.

  • Smith, Deborah B. "Finding Room for California's Children." Thrust for Educational Leadership Vol. 21, No. 6 (Apr. 1992), p.8-11.

    Estimates the average rate of growth in student numbers in California to be 48% in the coming decade, with some districts expecting 100% growth. To house these numbers with new buildings would cost (in their estimate) $25.3 billion by the year 2000. States that by July 1991, 1 million students in California attending YRS in 1,200 schools in 135 districts. While there is little detailed consideration of costs, the article does refer to the dilapidated state of California's schools, stating that $3 billion is needed to meet deferred maintenance costs, another $3 billion for modernization and $2.4 billion to upgrade schools for YRS.

  • United Teachers of Los Angeles Year-round Schools Committee. Questions and Answers About Year-round Schools. Los Angeles, CA: UTLA Year-round Schools Committee, 1991.

    Suggests that many teachers prefer the extra paychecks with YRS (13 compared to 10) and the opportunity to earn more money by working off-track, as well as accessing off-peak travel deals. Supports the research which show increased student achievement in YRS.

  • Univer, Irving O. "Can Year-round Schools Save Money?" American School and University Vol. 48, No. 9 (May 1986), p.34-35.

    Somewhat old, but does mention that "many promoters have oversold their districts on such educational gains as higher achievement scores, for which there is no proof" and mentions the "failure to reap promised operational savings" from many YRS initiatives. The author suggests that only a mandatory multi-track system is likely to save money.

  • Utah State Board of Education. Statewide Evaluation of Yearround and Extended-day Schools. Salt Lake City, Utah: Utah State Office of Education, 1989.

    States that overall per student personnel costs are similar after YRS is introduced, while enrollment levels were up by 10-20% after YRS. The paper also recommends extended teacher contracts (i.e. work more tracks, for a longer school year.)

  • Young, Raymond J. and Donald E. Berger. "Evaluation Of a Year- round Junior High School Operation." NASSP Bulletin. Vol. 67 No. 459 (Jan. 1983), p.53-59.

    Suggests some saving in capital costs but more uncertainty re operating costs. Interestingly, the authors bring in to the debate on capital costs the effect of rising interest rates, saying that no studies have considered the effect of interest rates on such expenditures. States that the authors cannot find any comparative achievement data to support YRS over traditional calendars, but many studies since this was written make such claims.

  • Weiss, Joel with Coryell, Jane. Changing Times. Changing Minds: The Consultation Process in Considering Year Round Schooling, 1993.

    States that there are no cost savings associated with singletrack schools and that five track multi calendar offer the best likelihood of cost savings, though no savings are guaranteed as higher operating costs may offset savings, especially where construction costs are underestimated.

  • White, William D. New Cost Savings in Year-Round Schools, 1990

    White claims that Jefferson County saved $87m of bonded indebtedness through YRS, but that much of this saving was unreported when year-round schooling was scrapped in the district. He suggests that the campaign to end year-round schooling was initiated by an alliance of construction trades and others with an economic interest in school construction. Parents joined this group in successfully fighting against year-round schooling.

    The author shows increased operating costs for year-round schooling from zero (custodians) to 33% more (Special Ed. resource teachers) but argues that these costs would have been incurred in new school had they been built, so that cost savinga are still significant through going year round.

  • White, William D. Why a Year Round District Moved from a Multi- Track to a Single Track Operation, ERIC Document, Feb 1993.

    An interesting paper which shows the cyclical nature of educational trends, and how a number of factors combined to reduce enthusiasm for YRS in this district. The author believes there was a failure to recognize the costeffectiveness of YRS and that this was one of the factors in its demise. He suggests that while increased costs are noticed in year-round schooling sites (increased operating costs were calculated at $260,000 per year for each elementary school where YRS was in operation), the costs not incurred through new plant are often not seen and therefore not considered.

  • Zykowski et al. A Review of Year-Round Education Research, California Educational research Co-operative (1991)

    The authors point to inaccuracies and lack of standardization in budget calculations in items such as the percentage of building capacity utilized, degree of curriculum change, voluntary or mandatory nature of program, school and class size, transportation, building modification, teacher and staff contracts, air conditioning and portable storage cabinets. Their case is that such inaccuracies and non-standardization make many of the purported claims doubtful. They quote the Quinlan (1987) and Mass (1989) studies of California and Utah YRS which are both inconclusive in terms of either increased costs or savings, report that Guthries (1984-85) study of Houston showed a 33% cost increase, Brekke's study (1989) of Oxnard which showed 9% savings and Bradford (1986) who found an increase in per pupil expenditure from year-round schooling.

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