Sen. Leising seems to have a thing for schools and “the good old days.” Her perennial windmill is, of course, attempting to have the State government mandate school curriculum relative to cursive writing for what I regard as a combination of nostalgia and specious reasoning. (This year, she submitted her cursive bill as SB 8.)
With her SB 7, which would prohibit schools from starting earlier than the last Monday in August, I also detect a strong whiff of nostalgia. I’ve also heard it characterized as a response to lobbying efforts from the amusement park industry. Whatever the lobbying background of this proposal might be, my sense is that more generalized support for this initiative is going to be from people with a sense that back in the good old days, we had longer summers. When I was a kid, and my birthday rolled around in early August, I still had a few weeks of vacation left. I seem to recall my parents talking about school not starting until after Labor Day.
Aside from the general idea that school corporations are perfectly capable of organizing their calendars without dictation from Indianapolis, West Lafayette’s superintendent, Rocky Killion, had a column in the Journal & Courier a few weeks ago discussing some of the problems with this proposal.
? Indiana code requires 180 days of instruction for all public schools.
? If public schools cannot begin school until the fourth week of August, then students will be attending school through mid-June.
? Students and staff members involved with advance placement tests would not be able to participate in the national testing schedules.
? It is better for high school students to finish their first semester finals before winter break rather than having to take several weeks off and then come back and finish first semester at the end of January.
? Seniors who plan to graduate early will now have to return in January to finish their first semester and may possibly be prevented from enrolling into college until the fall semester.
? All three public school districts in Tippecanoe County serve students whose parents are associated with Purdue University. When Purdue University ends classes in early May, many parents will be forced to choose between staying in the area through mid-June or taking their children out of school before the end of second semester.
? High school athletics would begin nearly a month before school starts.
Even though I’m not immune from grumbling about “back in my day” when my kids go back to school in the heart of August, the fact is that the scheduling works out o.k. And I trust that our local officials have decent reasons for implementing the schedule the way they do. They have lives and families outside the schools, just like we do, and I doubt they are any more eager to cut summer short than anyone else. But, there are competing considerations involved. And the General Assembly may not know how to appropriately weigh those considerations for each community.