As part of school finance reform, state legislators are considering a change that could significantly impact parents and children. A bill moving through the house proposes pushing the school start date back to the day after Labor Day in order to save money. Local school officials worry a later start date would interfere with vacation days, exams and extra-curricular activities. Supporters of the bill say it will save the cost of air conditioning schools during the hot August weeks and free up families to take vacations during that time, contributing to tourism dollars.
Local officials don't buy it. They say leave important decisions like this up to the school districts themselves. Karen Slay, a member of the Lubbock Independent School District Board says, "Our thing is nobody knows what's best for the districts better than the districts themselves." Pat Henderson, Superintendent of Lubbock-Cooper Independent School District says, "If someone just asked me if I was in favor, I'd say no. Where's the local control?"
Henderson and Slay don't want lawmakers in Austin deciding their school calendars. They say starting school after Labor Day could have numerous implications. Slay explains, "We're either going to make up two weeks by compacting everything... one day at Thanksgiving, maybe two, one week at Christmas, no spring break, no staff development holidays for students, or go two weeks into June." Henderson says, "We like our breaks. Our school calendar, we go about six weeks and have a break for a holiday or staff development day. The kids come back refreshed and teachers do."
School officials worry changing the school year might interfere with teachers who want to take summer graduate courses, and cause problems with extracurricular schedules. Maybe even mean kids would be taking end of semester exams after the Christmas holiday break. They say if the state mandates the change, they'll deal with it, but they hope parents will let legislators know how they feel. Slay warns, "It's got legs and it's walking I was told on this bill. So, it may move forward and they need to be worried if they're not."
Legislators want to see the school finance reform bill on the floor by mid-March. Representative Carl Isett tells NewsChannel he's not opposed to starting school after Labor Day, but he does want to hear from his constituents and local officials before taking a stance on the issue.