Lawmakers hear arguments on school start dates

Having a uniform starting date for schools in late August or early September would save schools money and give families
and kids more prime vacation time, several parents told an interim legislative committee Wednesday.

"When
I told my three young children that I was coming today to speak, my 12-year-old son Daniel was thrilled and said, ‘Mom, go
get my summer back,’" Beth Wyrik of Michigantown told the Interim Study Committee on Education Issues.

Some
tourism industry lobbyists also said a later, uniform starting date statewide would boost the tourism industry, but some education
lobbyists said the issue should be decided locally.

It could become a divisive issue in the legislative session
that starts in January. Republican Sen. Dennis Kruse of Auburn, a co-chairman of the interim committee and chairman of the
Senate Education Committee, has indicated interest in a later starting date.

After more than two hours of testimony
Wednesday, he presented two preliminary bill proposals. One would prohibit schools from starting no earlier than the fourth
Monday in August, and the other would be no earlier than the day after Labor Day.

Both would take effect in the
2012-13 school year, or later for schools that have earlier starting dates set in collective bargaining agreements that extend
beyond 2013.

Democratic Rep. Greg Porter of Indianapolis, chairman of the House Education Committee, said Kruse
was "jumping the gun" by proposing draft legislation so early. Porter thinks the issue should be left to local schools.

But Kruse said they were simply proposals to consider before the interim committee meets again Oct. 26.

Many
districts in Indiana start school in early or mid-August. Some pushed the date back in recent years because statewide standardized
tests were given in the fall and school officials said students needed time in August to prepare for the tests.

But
the tests are now given in the spring, something proponents of a later start date noted Wednesday.

State law requires
180 student instructional days and establishes that an instructional day for grades 1-6 consists of at least five hours of
instructional time. Grades 7-12 must consist of at least six hours of instructional time.

Save Indiana Summers,
a group of parents and businesses pushing for a law requiring a later starting date, says it would save schools cooling costs
in the dog days of August — money that could be used instead on education. They also say a later date would allow high
school students to work longer in the summer and earn money for college.

Some education lobbyists said they did
not have a position on a starting date, so long as required instructional time was not reduced.

But Robert Pychinka,
a lobbyist with the Indiana Association of School Principals, said state lawmakers should leave the issue alone.

"Do we really want somebody else dictating to school corporations when to start and when to stop school?" he asked.

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