By Jared Felkins
Reprinted from The Times-Journal (Dekalb County, AL)
Link to the original article here
Published March 31, 2009
The total economic cost of starting school in early August and losing two weeks of early summer vacation in Alabama is more than $333 million, according to an economic impact report released Tuesday.
Two state legislators said they are out to capture that money while answering the calls of teachers and parents statewide by requiring schools to stop starting the school year during the hottest time of the year.
The report, authored by Auburn University at Montgomery economics professor Keivan Deravi, said the economic impact figures include employment earning loss for students, teachers and staff, school operation costs, including utility costs and the loss to Alabama tourism.
According to the report, the state loses about $26 million for each August school day scheduled.
The report comes on the heels of a doom-and-gloom economic report for the state, estimating a possible $1 billion shortfall in the education budget.
Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, and Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, presented the finding in a release before a news conference today and said they have each filed legislation that would stop schools from starting any earlier than Aug. 15.
Personally, I think the school year should start after Labor Day, said Ford. But, Aug. 15 is better than the current average start date of Aug. 6 or Aug. 7.
DeKalb Tourist Association Director John Dersham said Tuesday he plans to be in Montgomery today in support of the bill.
It would bring greater revenue to DeKalb County in tourism in that the legislation adds two weeks of summer vacation, Dersham said. June isnt a very good tourism month because kids are still playing sports. That leaves July, which is by far our biggest tourism month. August used to be just like July, but since school starts early, parents are trying to get ready for kids to go back to school. Its really critical for our revenue, and the state could use the extra revenue as well.
With a state required 180 instructional days for students and accounting for traditional holidays, the legislation would push summer vacation starting after Memorial Day and sometime during the first week of June.
The school start date used to be set uniformly, and I think we need to go back to that, said Sen. Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe.
Rep. Todd Greeson, a member of the House education committee, said he is in favor of a later school start date, but said its unlikely to pass during the current session.
Ive been in support of this for a while, said Greeson, R-Ider. In our area, I get a lot of calls on it because of the summer camps. I dont anticipate it passing, though. We havent passed anything in a week due to filibusters on the grocery tax removal.
This year 68 percent of Alabama school districts begin Aug. 6 or Aug. 7.
At its December delegate assembly, The Alabama Education Association passed a resolution endorsing a later school start date for all Alabama K-12 public schools.
A January 2009 survey by Capital Survey Research Center showed 83 percent of voters want a standard public school starting date.
The poll, released by SaveAlabamaSummers.org, found 43 percent of the state's registered voters favor the school year starting after Labor Day, while 51 percent support a school start date of the last week of August or later.
Currently 11 states have laws regulating the start of the school year and 12 more are considering school start date laws. Texas, Florida and South Carolina most recently enacted school start date laws.