SYRACUSE — In most recent years when Indiana lawmakers are in session during the General Assembly, it seems there is at least one, if not more, issues being considered affecting public schools. And often school administrators are concerned about the proposed legislation in those sessions.
The Indiana General Assembly convened Wednesday, Jan. 3, and already one proposed bill in particular has aroused deep concerns. Senate Bill 7 would prohibit public schools from starting instructional days before the last Monday of August. It would become effective during the 2019-20 school year.
A similar bill in 2017 never made it out of the Senate.
SB 7 is authored by State Senators Jean Leising, Dennis Kruse and Jack Sandlin. Aaron Freeman is a co-author of the bill.
Indiana School Board Association is against the bill and Dr. Tom Edington, Wawasee Community School Corporation superintendent, has also expressed reservations about the bill.
School boards have for several years set calendars for the school year, but this legislation, if approved, would take away that local control. “Our school board does a survey every few years in order to do what people in this community want,” Edington noted. He would like to see that control maintained at the local level.
Regardless of when school starts, fall sports start Aug. 1 because of the weather. “If the calendar is moved until later in August, we would be playing the state football playoffs at Christmas time,” he said.
Starting the school year later in August would mean the school year for the Wawasee district would not end until about mid-June. This would further complicate some already complicated family situations, Edington said.
As late as the 1980s, Indiana schools typically started right after Labor Day and finished Memorial Day weekend. But then in 1988, five days were added to the calendar and eventually spring break was added, meaning two weeks, or 10 school days, were added.
Now Indiana requires 180 days of instruction in a school year. “That was a product of a different time when both (political) parties would talk to each other about what was best for students in Indiana,” Edington noted, referring to the A-Plus program in Indiana. Also at that time there were considerably fewer activities available for kids to participate in.
Michigan has a law requiring schools to start around Labor Day time, but the flexibility exists for longer school days to make up for starting later in the year. “That flexibility does not exist in Indiana yet,” he commented.
Edington said he has met with local business leaders in the past who have said it would be nice if the local lakes were busier until Labor Day weekend. But it is unclear if the majority of the community would be in favor of starting school later in August.
“We would have to look at all options and ask the community about it,” he said in response to being asked if dropping fall or spring break would be an option.
He added there are some in the state who feel Indiana’s job market would be helped by having colleges finish the year earlier and start earlier than public schools.
As of Thursday morning, Jan. 4, SB 7 was scheduled to be heard in a Senate committee.