Local Superintendents React To Calendar Opt-Out Defeat

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MADISON COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT)-- It hasn't been a secret, North Alabama school administrators are not happy with losing control over crafting their school calendars. This week  a calendar opt-out bill was defeated meaning calendars will be mandated state-wide at least for another year.

Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler lamented the defeat of the opt-out bill, saying local school boards know best the schedule that is more fitting for their communities. He commended Madison County legislators for solidly being in support of local control.

The 2012 law required that all public schools start no sooner than the Monday two weeks before Labor Day and end no later than the Friday before Memorial Day. The law covered two academic years with a "sunset" provision requiring it to expire after the 2013-14 school year.

Sen. Bill Holtzclaw (R) of Madison told WHNT News 19 Wednesday that a proposed deal which would have allowed north Alabama school systems to opt out of the statewide calendar law ended up falling apart due to political posturing from Gulf Coast lawmakers.

Holtzclaw said his offer would have added the opt-out provision to the calendar law starting this fall in exchange for making the legislation permanent. The law is currently set to expire at the end of the 2013-14 school year, meaning local school boards will regain full control over their start and stop dates.

“We made a great win-win solution on the table, and sometimes in life folks get greedy,” said Holtzclaw, who added that potential negotiations for extending the law were now off the table. “They [Calendar Law supporters] wanted everything their way. They failed to realize the impact when everything is going to be lost for them…At the end I really wished we had the alternative of fall break in the 2013-14 school year, but the good news is we’ll have full control back in the 2014-15 school year, and this little experiment will have proven to fail.”

The new system was approved by significant majorities in both the Alabama State House and Senate in May 2012, with the bulk of opposition coming from lawmakers in the north part of the state. Gov. Robert Bentley vetoed the bill, but it was overridden by both bodies of the legislature.

Fowler said that while Madison and many other school districts were hopeful the opt-out bill would pass, he’s grateful the “sunset” provision will soon put local school boards “back in the business” of determining their own calendars. North Alabama legislators agree there’s not enough support in the Legislature as a whole to approve a new state calendar law once the current one expires.