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Pioneer Editorial: Obama calls for longer school year

It's no secret that children in the United States are slipping academically when considered against students of other countries. So it should come as no surprise that there is a call for U.S. students to spend more time in the classroom.

Over the weekend, President Barack Obama's views on the issue became known in an Associated Pre story. "Now, I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas," the president said earlier this year. "Not with Malia and Sasha, not in my family, and probably not in yours. But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom."

Mr. Obama says he'd like to see time added to classes, keep schools open later in the day, and let kids in on weekends so they have a safe place to go.

Our school calendar is based on an agrarian economy, but in the 21st century not too many kids are to be found working the fields, U.S. Education Department officials note. It must be adjusted to allow for more days in the school year, in addition to longer school days.

"Young people in other countries are going to school 25, 30 percent longer than our students here," Education Secretary Anne Duncan told the AP. "I want to just level the playing field."

It was noted that U.S. students spend more instructional hours in the classroom, but students in countries with higher test scores have longer school years. At any rate, longer class times and school years will help narrow the gap in what is becoming a globally competitive marketplace.

Doing so. However, will cost money. More teachers will be needed, as well as supplies and books. And many schools will need to be retrofitted to handle the hot summer. But in a sense of priorities, the education of our children to prepare them for 21st century challenges should be foremost.

Talk of adding time to school days or the year is nothing new in Minnesota. Gov. Tim Pawlenty has proposed it and it has been bantered around the Legislature for years. But having the president take a stand should help further the discussion in Minnesota.