Return calendar flexibility to Texas school districts

Currently Texas school districts are not able to start school until the 4th Monday in August.  The legislative guidelines for district calendars have changed many times since 1984.

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According to a Dallas Morning News article from January 5, 2015

During a 1984 special session, the Legislature required the first day to occur after Sept. 1. The law was tweaked in 1989 when schools could start on any day during the week in which Sept. 1 fell. But in 1991, the law on a uniform start date was repealed.

In the decade that followed, school districts began setting the first day of class earlier and earlier. Many eventually started the first week of August.

In 2001, schools were required to start class during the week of Aug. 21, but districts found a way around that by asking and receiving state waivers to maintain an early start.

So the travel industry and frustrated parents fought back, pushing for a uniform start date after Labor Day. A state comptroller’s report estimated that an early start date contributed to Texas losing $790 million annually in economic benefits.

In the 2006 special session, lawmakers approved what they called a compromise that amended the start to late August.

 

In contrast, Texas charter schools are allowed to determine their own school start date.   It allows school systems such as Life Schools of Dallas, where I am employed, to consider a variety of calendar options to best meet the needs of our stakeholders. Texas school districts, and ultimately their governing school boards, should be afforded that same flexibility to create and approve calendars that best meet the needs of their community.

There are many good arguments for various start dates and therefore considerations of earlier or the current allowable start date should be left up to the districts and boards of the communities they serve.

Currently there are two bills filed in the 84th Texas Legislature that would adjust the current school start date to days earlier than the 4th Monday in August

SB 266 Seliger (text) Relating to allowing a school district to begin school after the 3rd Wednesday in August if beginning instruction on or after the 4th Monday would result in five or fewer instructional days in August.

HB 204  Leach (text) Relating to allowing a school district to begin instruction after the 2nd Monday in August rather than the 4th Monday in August.