Parental Activism: Retaking Their Kids' Summer Vacation
In an effort to stymie ever-earlier school starting dates, parents around the country have become increasingly assertive in their efforts to restore their kids traditional summer recess from class. Their efforts have been paying off, with Kentucky the latest state that is taking a hard look at legislation that would require a later statewide back-to-school starting date: (emphasis added)
A grass-roots movement is afoot in Barren County to get state lawmakers to require that the first day of public school be no earlier than the week before Labor Day.In our state of California, each individual school district decides for itself when to begin the school year even though the state mandates when students must take their annual standardized tests.
The group, Save Kentucky Summers, say they've gathered 2,000 signatures in Barren County and are using the Web site, http://www.savekentuckysummers.com, to rally parents, teacher and students to push for the legislation.
"There has always been an interest in having a later start date," said Barret Lessenberry, one of the leaders of Save Kentucky Summers. "I don't think there has been a unified effort where the masses can let the decision makers know this is our preference."
Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, said early start dates serve several purposes - to build up time in case of winter weather closings later in the year, to allow for as much instructional time as possible before state testing and to accommodate weeklong fall breaks.
Kentucky currently requires public schools to provide the equivalent of 175 six-hour days of instruction. Missed days have to be accounted for either at the start or end of the school year. Lawmakers recently added two instructional days starting in the 2007-08 school year.
The national school calendar average is 180 days of instruction.
Tina Bruno of the Coalition for a Traditional School Year, said the effort in Kentucky is similar to what is happening in other southern states, including Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.
Texas, South Carolina and Florida recently passed legislation preventing early start dates in school districts. Florida schools are now required to start school no earlier than two weeks before Labor Day, while Texas schools cannot start before the fourth Monday in August and South Carolina schools are barred from opening before the third Monday in August.
"The majority of parents want a post-Labor Day start date," Bruno said.
Many California districts want an earlier start date in order to have more instructional days before the students take their exams. Some also believe that such districts enjoy a comparative advantage over those jurisdictions that choose later start dates.
In South Carolina, the publicly-given reason for returning to an after Labor Day starting date was the need for kids to continue at their summer jobs in the coastal resort towns of Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head.