For Texas public school children, the summer must always seem too short, even with the Legislature’s efforts to keep vacation as long as possible.
Since 2007, Texas schools have been subject to a legislative mandate that delays the start of the school year until the last week in August. Several years prior, schools couldn’t reopen doors before Sept. 1.
But when the Legislature reconvenes next week, it will renew debate over when the school year should start and who gets to make that decision.
Parents who advocate for a uniform start date complain that late summer vacations are spoiled when the school year begins before Labor Day. Kids, some say, should be allowed to enjoy the waning days of summer before the stresses of academia begin to pile up.
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The winning argument, though, has been economic. Advocates point to money saved by schools that don’t have to air-condition buildings during the hot weeks of August. And the travel industry, armed with a state comptroller’s report that determined that Texas would lose $790 million annually in economic benefits if kids started too early, helped secure the later start date.
Still, a longer summer isn’t necessarily a winner. Uneven semesters may mean final exams are held after the holiday break or may force teachers to drastically condense academic material. And shorter fall semesters mean students have less time to prepare for standardized tests.
School districts have rightly argued for more flexibility. Two bills that would provide a little latitude will be introduced during the 84th legislative session.
The first, filed by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, would permit districts to begin after the second Monday in August.
A second bill, by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, would allow schools to open their doors as early as the third Wednesday of August instead of the fourth.
The real benefit of both bills is that public school districts would have more control over their academic calendars. And that’s where control belongs — with the schools, not the Legislature.