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For some students, it pays to do homework

Employers allow on-the-clock study

GENOA TOWNSHIP, Mich. -- Students working at some McDonald's restaurants around the country are getting paid whether they are flipping burgers or flipping through textbooks.

At Kathy and Jerry Olinik's two restaurants about 55 miles west of Detroit, high school and college students will be allowed to stay on the clock for an extra hour before or after their shifts this fall, as long as they spend the time doing schoolwork.

''Kids are our future. Anything we can do to support that is the responsible thing to do," Jerry Olinik said.

It is an idea catching on around the nation.

A McDonald's franchise owner in Wisconsin lets students stay on the clock to participate in a study group. Owners in North Carolina and Virginia allow employees to take English language classes as part of their shifts.

Burger King spokeswoman Laina Kawass says she has heard of franchise owners who make sure students finish their homework before their shifts.

Seventeen-year-old Sarah Hocking works about 10 hours a week during the school year at one of the Oliniks' restaurants. She says she plans to take advantage of the program to get her homework done.

''I think it's a good idea," she said. ''Some kids don't want to do homework, so maybe this will motivate them to get it done."

Ellen Galinsky, president of the nonprofit Families and Work Institute, said programs that pay students to do their homework offer an obvious benefit to students, but also could help employers recruit and retain good employees.

''The most important thing to people's earning power and success in life has to do with their education," she said. ''This is helping the future -- the next generation of the workforce -- succeed."

About 1 out of 4 high school freshmen and 3 out of 4 high school seniors work during the school year, according to a 1997-2003 survey sponsored by the Labor Department.

About 24 percent of working freshmen and 56 percent of working seniors average 21 or more hours per week.

In a 2000 study by the Families and Work Institute, 38 percent of students employed during the school year said that working harmed their school performance.

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