A Senate Education Study Committee met last week to discuss if local school systems across the state should have later school-start dates.

The conversation emerged last year when there were complaints about some school districts starting in late July. This questioned if there was enough time for Georgia families to take quality vacation time and teenagers to have enough time to work a summer job. The Tourism industry also voiced their concerns in favor of later school start times in order to continue servicing their patrons through the summer months. Other concerns were related to energy costs for local school districts as July and August are the hottest months.

The Senate Study Committee, headed by State Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), heard from the Georgia Department of Education and Tourism industry leaders. The Republican-controlled General Assembly typically favors local control of school district decisions. The aspect of local control, which is generally a Republican principle, could be on the chopping block.

Local control also won out among the people when voters shot down Governor Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District, but Deal was able to get around the 2016 defeat with the passage of the First Priority Act in 2017. The new law set up a new layer of government inside the Department of Education creating a Chief School Turnaround Officer.

Most school districts in the country control their school start dates and about 12 states mandate when their schools start back. The Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Georgia Parent Teacher’s Association stated that many parents and educators favor local control of school start dates.

Over the years, school calendars in Georgia have generally been dictated by the state’s standardized testing window. In the committee hearing that included policy officials from the Georgia Department of Education, the officials told the committee the state does not control when schools start, but that their school calendars are centered around the state’s testing window.

The testing window generally starts in the spring beginning in March with practice testing transmissions for online state testing of the Milestones.  The entire testing window ends in early May to give time for remediation and re-testing opportunities. Also, Advanced Placement and End-Of-Pathway testing at the high school level also occurs during this time. Outside of spring testing window, elementary grades give the GKIDS (Kindergarten) test right when school starts, usually in August. Many districts also have other testing and retesting opportunities throughout the year.

With plans to minimize the amount of testing, later start dates could be favored among parents at the local level, but local control, as it relates to school start times, could be an issue to watch in the Georgia Senate come January.

The Senate Study Committee is expected to meet again a few more times and finish up their findings in December before the start of the 2019 General Assembly Legislative Session.

Below is the resolution that established the study committee to review school-start times:

Senate Resolution School Start Times

 

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