Districts can select schools’ start date

BRYANT

BRYANT

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Local school districts can continue to decide when to start their school year.

Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law late Wednesday legislation that would undo a law passed in 2012 that would prevent local school districts from starting school before the third Monday in August.

The change was passed in 2012 after strong urging from tourism officials, particularly those on the Gulf Coast, who argued early school starts negatively impacted the state’s tourism industry.

But local superintendents have complained that the later start would force some districts to delay semester exams until after Christmas. Plus, some complained that the Legislature was mandating a school start while supporting a stronger charter school law exempting charter schools from state regulations, such as when school could start.

The proposal giving the local districts the option of when to start school was added via an amendment to legislation dealing with various aspects of school administration.

For instance, the bill also allows teachers to get their school procurement card for supplies earlier, allows students to take classes in subject areas where they must pass to graduate from high school through the college dual-enrollment program and allows students in districts that lose accreditation for non-academic reasons to continue to participate in extracurricular activities.

“Had the Legislature chosen to send me the school start date change in a stand-alone bill instead of attaching it to a measure that includes many beneficial education changes, I might have taken different action with regard to that provision,” Bryant said in a news release.

The legislative leadership resisted efforts to undo the 2012 law despite strong objections from local school superintendents. But the amendment giving districts the option of when to start the school year was added on the Senate floor, and efforts of the House leadership to remove the amendment were stopped on the floor of that chamber.

“I encourage all districts to consider the needs of students, families and communities when developing their calendars,” Bryant said. “Inconsistent school start and end dates can have an impact on enrollment in summer school programs for both students and teachers and can also have an impact on tourism throughout the state.”

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com