Flexibility? Or a threat to families?
A year ago, the Florida Legislature decided that school districts were starting classes too early, as at least one district set its first day of classes for the end of July. So lawmakers did what they like to do - they changed the rules. For the 2007-08 academic year, districts could not begin school any earlier than two weeks before Labor Day.
Many parents - and Florida's powerful tourism industry - rejoiced. But educators and school district officials did not. The move forced districts to eliminate many days off during the first semester, in order to squeeze everything in before semester exams and winter break. Or it pushed midterms after winter vacation, a choice not beloved by high schoolers.
The action pushed the administration of the FCAT back, which messed with spring break scheduling and also caused an expected delay in the return of the test results. That, in turn, could mess with the state's ability to offer students extra help over the summer and to provide parents choice options allowed under No Child Left Behind.
Into the fray steps state Sen. Bill Posey, who wants to give school districts back the choice of when to start the school year. His bill (SB 2816) comes up for its first committee vote on Wednesday.
Columnist Andrew Skerritt writes that lawmakers should not relent. Posey's bill "sounds reasonable," Skerritt writes, "but the proposal could weaken one of the most family-friendly pieces of education legislation passed in recent years."
Skerritt suggests that school districts could provide both excellent education and summer family time if they wanted. August should be for lazing around with family, and not for going to school, he contends.
We'll let you know later this week whether the Senate Pre-K-12 Education Committee agrees.