Speaker's Stand: School calendar experiment
by Carrie McWhorter
Special to The Star
Nov 16, 2012 | 1787 views |  0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I’ve been helping my children with their math homework lately, and I’ve come up with some word problems of my own to try to make sense of the Alabama Legislature’s effort to mandate the start and end dates for K-12 schools. Here’s one: There are 10 weeks between Labor Day and Veterans Day. Each week has five school days. How many days are there between Labor Day and Veterans Day?

Here’s another (and this one’s a little more difficult): According to the Flexible School Calendar Act of 2012, schools in Alabama must start no earlier than two weeks before Labor Day and end no later than the last Friday before Memorial Day. If both elementary and high school students in the state are required to receive 1,080 hours of instruction during the school year, how many holidays must be cut in order to meet the minimum requirement?

If you are working out these problems with me, the first is simple: 50 days. The second is a little trickier, but many Alabama school systems had to answer the question last May as they hurriedly changed their academic calendars to comply with the new law. Despite the bill’s title, there is no flexibility in the law — local school boards have lost the freedom to schedule the school year according to the needs of their communities.

School officials around the state argued against the bill and finance officials suggested claims of additional revenue were dubious at best. Even Gov. Robert Bentley recognized the need for local control when he vetoed the bill, but the Legislature, motivated by tourism interests, overrode the veto. The legislation took effect this fall, resulting in the 50-day marathon of school days for many students around the state.

According to my math, our system lost nine holidays because of the mandated calendar. If we had just eight of those back as four-day weekends spaced throughout the school year, there would be 16 days that families with school-aged children could spend at Alabama’s hotels, museums and outdoor attractions. Long weekends might not surpass the revenue generated by weeks at the beach, but they certainly must generate more revenue than a weekend a family spends at home.

Once this two-year mandated calendar experiment is finished, I hope our representatives will return control of school calendars to local school boards. The only solution that truly “adds up” is to allow communities to decide once again what is best for their teachers, students and families.

Carrie McWhorter lives in Fruithurst.
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Speaker's Stand: School calendar experiment by Carrie McWhorter
Special to The Star

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