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Quick Hits: Cutting Class, Oil Costs


Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

Some school kids are tossing their books in the air and shouting, "Thank you, Sheik of Araby!"

Rising fuel prices are punching a hole in school budgets and some rural school districts in Kentucky, New Mexico and Minnesota may revive an idea from the 1970s oil crunch: a four-day week.

A barrel of oil recently traded at $124.82 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price hit a record $147.27 a barrel on July 11. This drives up prices at the pump - and unless school districts hedge their fuel costs like Southwest Airlines (LUV), they shovel more money to ExxonMobil (XOM) Chevron (CVX), Conoco (COP) and others.

In some rural districts, school buses may make a 100-mile round trip each day. Such costs lead to panicked back-of-the-envelope calculations, and the answer may be a shorter school week.

The National School Boards Association reports that about 100 schools in 16 states have already moved to a 4-day week.

Some districts report that the shorter week improves attendance and boosts student performance.

However, some states require students to attend school a set number of days each academic year. If so, this may require some re-jiggering of vacations because a longer school day is almost certainly impractical, especially for young children.

So far, the shorter week hasn't raised academic concerns. But officials may be looking in the wrong direction. Ask any kid, and most will say, "Who needs geometry?"
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