Alabama lawmaker to reprise bill that would push school start dates back

GADSDEN, Ala. - An Alabama lawmaker is reprising a bill that would require schools to start no earlier than two weeks before Labor Day.

For reference, this year Labor Day will fall on September 3, 2018.

Rep. Craig Ford (I-Gadsden) co-sponsored the legislation in the 2017-2018 legislative session, and he said due to the shorter session this past year it did not make it out of committee.

This year, Ford is running as an Independent for a state Senate seat in District 10.  He posted on Facebook at the start of the month to say he is still passionate about keeping schools from starting at the beginning of August:

We talked to Ford about his plan, which he says he plans to sponsor in the upcoming Legislative session. He said it would be the largely same version as in years past, like we saw in HB396 or in the 2012 bill that was not renewed.

"What we would do is pass the same piece of legislation that was passed before," he said.

The bill reads, "The academic school calendar, established by the local board of education, shall include the minimum required number of instructional hours with the first day of instruction for students no earlier than the Monday two calendar weeks before Labor Day, unless August 31 is a Monday, then on Monday, August 17."

Ford argues that the later start date provides more time for families to vacation, spend money in the state, and work summer jobs. He argues that would generate more money to fund public education from tourism dollars.

"I think it's common sense legislation," Ford said Wednesday. "This is a piece of legislation that is allowing us to raise more money for the classrooms and for our educators, without having to raise revenues."

Rep. Ford wants to clarify any misconceptions about the bill.

"What it's not is a uniform calendar. Each school system would each have local control over how to set up their calendar," he said. School systems would be required to provide 1,050 hours of instruction, at minimum.

Ford said it is simply too hot to have school this early. But for him, there's more to it.

"It makes no sense to have kids in school buses riding in 100 degree heat, and then ask them to get off the bus and go into a learning environment. This also allows families more time at home during the summer together, at one time. It allows ease of child care for the parents," he stated.

Opponents argue that pushing start dates back could mean other aspects about the calendar that families love, would need to change. They cite Fall Break and time off for Thanksgiving as possibly on the chopping block and say that extra time for summer would have to come from somewhere.

Ford said he already has support for the bill among his colleagues in preparation for the upcoming session.

"I already have co-sponsors willing to sign on. There's good support, bi-partisan, and in both chambers of the Legislature," he said. "I feel very confident."