‘A new school year is starting, but it should be starting later,’ Alabama lawmaker says

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GADSDEN, Ala. — Students in Madison County and Huntsville City school systems started school yesterday. For other districts, school starts within a week.

State Rep. Craig Ford (D- Gadsden) doesn’t think that’s right.

“Instead of spending the last few weeks of August working summer jobs or on family vacations, teachers and students are preparing to head back to school. Why?,” Ford asked in a recent Facebook post. “It wasn’t always that way.”

In 2012, Alabama’s Legislature passed a bill mandating that school could not start earlier than the Monday two weeks before Labor Day and last no longer than the Friday immediately before Memorial Day.  Supporters argued that extending the summer break would benefit families, students, employees, Alabama’s tourism industry and even the government.

When legislature failed to renew the bill, school systems went back to the earlier start date. Alabama schools are required to provide at least 180 full instructional days or the hourly equivalent of 1,080 hours each year.

Ford noted that shortening summer vacation hurts Alabama families. Children no longer get to spend an extra summer month at recreational camps or completing their summer reading lists. And Ford adds in an especially personal note that his own children are grown and out of the house, “I can tell you those family vacations are precious while they last!”

Ford said he’d like to see the act renewed in the next session of the legislature:

“When the Flexible School Calendar Act of 2012 was passed, it focused on what was best for students and teachers. The act pushed back the school year to late-August and offered a twelve-week summer vacation. The bill was supported by teachers and parents alike. It didn’t force schools to start at a particular time, but did guarantee a full summer break. Unfortunately, it wasn’t reauthorized by the Alabama legislature.

So as everyone heads back to school this month, I wish you all luck. May this be a great year to be a student in Alabama! My hope is that this time next year, our students are enjoying a longer, fuller summer if the legislature will renew the Flexible School Calendar Act.”