Gov. Phil Bryant on Wednesday signed Senate Bill 2571, a measure that repeals a 2012 law requiring all public school districts to start the school year no earlier than the third Monday in August.
Bryant’s signing of Senate Bill 2571l restores to local districts control of their school calendars as has been the historic practice.
The later start was mandated after an effective lobbying campaign by Gulf Coast tourism interests. Wednesday’s repeal follows an equally effective and intense effort by school boards, superintendents, principals and many others who flagged academic risks related to testing days and a divided first semester in the later start.
Opinions on all sides were freely expressed, but Bryant made the right decision.
The bill, as noted in a statement from the governor’s press office, also includes language to “amend state rules regarding withdrawal of school accreditation in A and B-rated districts. Under the new law, students in schools that lose accreditation for any reason other than academic failure or financial accountability can continue to participate in extracurricular activities.”
The bill also adjusts policy regulating the purchasing of school supplies, use of procurement cards by teachers, and more control over when and how supplies are purchased for classrooms.
Those provisions, while important, were shoved out of the spotlight when the Legislature, in a rare bipartisan action, repealed the earlier start as a provision of SB 2571. The move was not supported by the leadership in either chamber, but efforts to win a veto were not strong.
Bryant said he hopes school district leaders will consider what’s best for students, families and communities in setting the academic calendar.
Those kinds of concerns were expressed in the groundswell about a later start’s adverse impact on mandatory state testing and a divided semester.
“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.
Local control has usually managed to fashion starting dates statewide in close proximity on the calendar.
Local control allows reasonable variation determined by the needs of individual districts and communities, not lobbying interests concerned most with one special interest or another.