State lawmakers once again are meddling in local affairs with the passage by a committee last week of a bill that would mandate longer public school summer vacations. The bill, now headed to the full House, would take effect for the 2005-06 school year and would require local school districts to begin the school calendar no earlier than Aug. 25 and end no later than June 10. The number of instructional days would remain at 180, but the school year would be shortened form 220 to 210 days by cutting teacher workdays.
We have heard the arguments, pro and con, for such a measure. Proponents say the schools have slowly whittled away at traditional summer vacations to the point that students are unnecessarily shoved back into hot classrooms in early August. The tourism industry is the chief lobbyist, arguing that early school calendars cut short family vacations and limit students who work service jobs..
Opponents say the plan would cost the state millions in increased substitute teacher costs and increased pensions, as teachers would have fewer workdays. High school teachers and students like to have exams before winter break and start a new semester at the first of the year. But their strongest argument is that changing the school calendar is a local matter that should be determined by local school boards. That reasoning is valid.
Local school boards are supposed to reflect the views of the parents and students of the district they govern. If parents want a later starting date, the local board should allow it. We see no harm in such a move, so long as the school year remains at 180 days.
As this measure heads to the full House for debate, we urge lawmakers to show some reliance on the local boards that are the appropriate bodies to make such decisions.
In other words, donâ€™t meddle.