House wants Mississippi's schools to start later

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – School would not start before Sept. 1 if a majority of the Mississippi House has its way.
On Monday, the House amended a bill to require that local school districts not start school before Sept. 1. The measure passed 65-54.
Currently, local school districts have wide discretion over the school calendar. But the year must consist of 180 instructional days and an additional seven staff development days.
“I believe it will be good for the economy, good for the parents, good for the students and good for the state as a tourism destination,” said Rep. Mark Formby, R-Picayune, who offered the amendment.
House Education Committee Chair Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, said each year there are multiple bills filed to mandate a later start for the school year. He said his committee held a hearing on the issue and both the School Boards Association and the Superintendents Association opposed a mandated later start.
Brown said the groups gave multiple reasons for opposing a mandated later start, such as wanting to ensure the first semester was completed before the Christmas break and wanting to prevent conflicts on the athletic calendar.
Brown has killed bills in his committee mandating a later start, but took no stance on the issue on the House floor although he did vote against the proposal.
The proposal had strong support from Gulf Coast legislators. Rep. Diane Peranich, D-Pass Christian, said the Gulf Coast Business Council conducted a study and concluded the later start date would bring in additional tourism funds to state and local governments.
Formby said most states with a strong tourism industry start school later in the year. Plus, he surmised a later start could save money on electricity because it is generally not as hot in May and June as it is in August.
Currently, school in Mississippi starts as early as the first week in August in some districts.
The proposal had bipartisan support on the House floor.
Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or booby.harrison@djournal.com