Right now, local school districts have full authority over their calendars, as long as they include 180 school days within a 10-month window. Each local school system has a calendar planning committee that considers various factors including testing, holidays, winter weather planning, and other issues that impact each system differently.
Some state elected officials—pushed by the tourism industry—want to take away this local autonomy by proposing a state mandated post-Labor Day start date for all school districts. They argue such a move would result in increased economic activity in tourist destinations at the end of August, although there is no independent analysis to support this theory. In fact, the Department of Legislative Services predicts this mandate would likely result in no new tax revenue for the state.
It is misguided to mandate school calendar decisions on the basis of trying to sell more ice cream cones and hotel rooms rather than on what is best for local communities and students. A one-size-fits-all model cannot account for all the factors that a local jurisdiction must consider while developing a calendar that works for its students. This local autonomy means that school districts already have the authority to start their school year after Labor Day, as some have done.
Advocates of a mandatory post-Labor Day start are encouraging districts to eliminate professional development days to make the school year end at the same time. This would widen achievement gaps and negatively impact student achievement in several ways:
- Summer Brain Drain: Studies have shown that during the summer, students from low-income homes lose two to three months of the reading ability they gained in the previous school year, while their more affluent peers make overall gains. We shouldn’t allow poorer students to slip behind to instead focus on encouraging their more affluent peers to spend time at the beach.
- Fewer Days for Test Preparation: Mandating a post-Labor Day start also would mean fewer days of instruction before students must sit for high stakes PARCC, AP, IB, SAT, and other tests that have an outsize influence on the future of students, educators, and schools. Fewer days to learn and prepare before these tests will only serve to lower scores on them.
- Reduced Educator Professional Development: This is deeply ignorant of the needs of our school systems, as this training is crucial to our efforts to successfully implement the Common Core, develop effective strategies to close achievement gaps, create safe schools, and other state and local priorities.
"When it comes to our public schools, there’s one word that Gov. Hogan thinks of: cuts. Cuts to school funding, cuts to the school year—he prioritizes cuts over developing real, detailed strategies to reduce over-testing, close achievement gaps, and expand proven reforms like pre-kindergarten, after-school programs, and community schools."