EDITORIAL: Let districts decide when to start classes

 IBJ Staff
January 29, 2011
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IBJ Editorial

It isn’t difficult to understand why state Sen. Mike Delph wants to force school districts to start their academic years after Labor Day; what’s perplexing is why Delph would want to slap a restriction on districts at a time they need more freedom to manage their own affairs.

Delph should put more energy into genuinely critical school reform and abandon the overreach.

The bill, which excludes year-round schools after a public hearing, moved to the full Senate this month after clearing the Senate Education Committee 6-3.

Delph has a point in believing districts have gone too far in starting school years earlier and earlier. At a practical level for many families, the traditional summer vacation season now ends in early August.

He’s also right that starting school later would cut air-conditioning costs and help students in buildings without air-conditioning focus on academics instead of the stifling heat.

But the legislation is unnecessary because the trend toward earlier starts will correct itself in time. Now that the statewide ISTEP test has been moved to spring from the fall, districts will feel less pressure to open their doors early in order to prepare students, and parents wanting to reclaim space in summer calendars will press school boards for later start dates.

Delph’s bill also runs counter to the promising movement in the General Assembly to deregulate local schools.

If the state demands that educators be compensated at least partly on student performance, it’s only fair to give districts as much flexibility as possible to reorganize the way they operate. To that end, a mandatory start date would be an additional burden.

Tepid progress on debt

President Obama is to be commended for devoting a great deal of his State of the Union address to the burgeoning national debt. Obama pointed out that the sheer size of the problem cannot be solved by tinkering around the edges and that hard choices will be necessary—a message that, coming from him, would have been unthinkable last year.

However, the president and the major political parties have much further to go in showing they’re serious about making those hard choices.

Obama’s debt commission in December recommended using mostly spending cuts, but also some tax increases, to slash the accumulated debt to 40 percent of the economy by 2035, a huge improvement from the 185 percent we’re currently hurtling toward. But the 18-member commission fell short of the 14 approving votes that would have triggered an up-or-down vote on the recommendations in Congress.

Liberals will need to allow cuts to social programs. Conservatives will need to consider at least some tax increases. And both parties will have to get serious about cuts to military and entitlement spending. Only the most extreme experts at either end of the spectrum believe the debt can be tackled without both spending cuts and tax increases.

Unfortunately, time is wasting while they squabble.•

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  1. Really, taking someone managing the regulation of Alcohol and making himthe President of an IVY Tech regional campus. Does he have an education background?

  2. Jan, great rant. Now how about you review the report and offer rebuttal of the memo. This might be more conducive to civil discourse than a wild rant with no supporting facts. Perhaps some links to support your assertions would be helpful

  3. I've lived in Indianapolis my whole and been to the track 3 times. Once for a Brickyard, once last year on a practice day for Indy 500, and once when I was a high school student to pick up trash for community service. In the past 11 years, I would say while the IMS is a great venue, there are some upgrades that would show that it's changing with the times, just like the city is. First, take out the bleachers and put in individual seats. Kentucky Motor Speedway has individual seats and they look cool. Fix up the restrooms. Add wi-fi. Like others have suggested, look at bringing in concerts leading up to events. Don't just stick with the country music genre. Pop music would work well too I believe. This will attract more young celebrities to the Indy 500 like the kind that go to the Kentucky Derby. Work with Indy Go to increase the frequency of the bus route to the track during high end events. That way people have other options than worrying about where to park and paying for parking. Then after all of this, look at getting night lights. I think the aforementioned strategies are more necessary than night racing at this point in time.

  4. Talking about congestion ANYWHERE in Indianapolis is absolutely laughable. Sure you may have to wait in 5 minutes of traffic to travel down BR avenue during *peak* times. But that is absolutely nothing compared to actual big cities. Indy is way too suburban to have actual congestion problems. So please, never bring up "congestion" as an excuse to avoid development in Indianapolis. If anything, we could use a little more.

  5. Oh wait. Never mind.