The Georgia General Assembly tried to pass a law in 2005 forcing schools to push the first day of classes after the summer break to late August. The bill stipulated K-12 public schools could only resume classes between Aug. 29 and Sept. 7.
With then Gov. Sonny Perdue and Superintendent of Schools Kathy Cox countering that local officials should set school calendars, the effort failed. It’s apparently being resurrected now.
Proponents at the time cited the example of neighbor North Carolina. In 2004, the N.C. Legislature approved a law delaying the start of school to late August. North Carolina schools still follow that law.
But such state edicts are rare.
Because of a belief in local control, only 14 states mandate when schools can start after their summer break. The AJC reports today the state Senate has launched a committee to study school start dates and whether Georgia should become the 15th state to regulate when classes can resume. The senator leading the panel has already indicated concerns over the impact of early school starts on tourism in Georgia.
Here is an excerpt of the AJC news story:
Our goal is to determine if a later start date is feasible,” said Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega. School calendars proved contentious in some metro Atlanta districts, including Cobb and DeKalb counties, earlier this decade. Many have adopted so-called “balanced” calendars featuring shorter summer breaks, with additional brief breaks sprinkled throughout the school year.
One goal in Georgia was to reduce the summer “slide” effect, as the long break led too many children to forget what they’d just learned, starting the fall semester behind where they’d been in the spring.
But summer is also an important time for the state’s tourism industry, with its half a million jobs and its $61 billion estimated “economic impact,” notes Senate Resolution 1068, of which Gooch was the chief co-sponsor. “Whereas, the summer travel season is a prime revenue generator for the industry,” the industry employs students and “varied school start dates affect both employment and visitation opportunities,” says the resolution adopted during this year’s legislative session.
Over the years in Georgia, the tourism industry and parents nostalgic for longer summers have advocated for a vacation break that encompasses August. Most Georgia schools now close for the summer in late May and reopen in early August.
Many transplants say their nieces and nephews up north are in school until mid-June and don’t go back until after Labor Day, making it hard to align family trips.
But lawmakers in Georgia have deferred to school boards and superintendents who contend calendars should remain their bailiwick.
No so in North Carolina where the Legislature agreed with the tourism industry that kids returning to classrooms in early August hurt the economy and passed a school calendar law stating schools can start no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26 and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11. (Charter schools and year-round schools are exempted from the law.)
I grew up going back to school after Labor Day and think August is a perfect beach month. But this is a decision best left to local districts. Why are lawmakers better suited to determine the academic calendar?
Nor do I think business interests should influence the school calendar. Schools should be organized around what produces the best outcomes for students.