Many people aren't happy about this, and the apparent reason behind the bill doesn't come from a good place at all:
School districts hate it, and parents are lukewarm. So why are Texas lawmakers pushing for all schools to start classes the day after Labor Day?So let me get this straight: Lawmakers are going to destroy one of the most important elements of local school district control, and mess with a lot of students' lives, just so Six Flags can keep longer hours for two or three more weeks?
One major reason: The tourism industry loves it.
"This is a big win for families who want to vacation late in the summer," said Sen. Eddie Lucio, a Democrat who pushed for the later start. "It is also a big win for business in general all over the state, especially in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, South Padre Island and resort areas where they depend on tourism." (source)
There are several reasons why this is a really, really bad idea:
- Fewer holidays. I haven't actualy seen a proposed calendar under these parameters, but district officials have been saying all along that it would force holidays--and I don't just mean the fluffy ones like Fair Day, but things like spring and winter breaks--to be severely curtailed. Sure, the so-called "real world" doesn't have all these holidays, but remember, we're talking about kids as young as kindergartners here. They need a break every now and then.
- The discrepancy with colleges would be even worse. My college let out today; my public schools won't do so for three more weeks. If this bill becomes law, it will be more like a month between the ends of the college and public-school semesters. For families who have offspring in both places, this could make vacation-planning a nightmare. But even worse than that, imagine the poor teachers who need to take summer college coursework to finish a master's degree or do personal enrichment courses. Most college summer sessions start the week of June 6 this year; if school didn't let out until a day after that, how are the teachers supposed to take these classes?
- Local control is important. Building the academic calendar is one of the most unique things a school district does, and they will do it better than some centralized "home office" (which is what the Legislature, by doing this power grab, is trying to become) could ever dream of doing. The calendar committee in each district is composed of people who have been around for a while and know what works best for them; it might not be the same things that work best for another nearby district. Besides, most things get messed up when big government takes control, and this would undoubtedly be no exception.
- We don't need 3 a.m. graduations. It sure seems like the supporters of this bill didn't give one nanosecond of thought to how all 1,037 school districts in Texas are supposed to hold graduation ceremonies at the same time. In the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex, nearly everyone uses either the UNT Coliseum or Moody Coliseum at SMU (the really big schools use Reunion Arena). The only reason this works is because the districts' ending dates are staggered across a two- to three-week period. If you start making everyone do it at once, the facilities won't be available; even the new venue out in my part of town would only partially relieve the glut of ceremonies that would be forced to happen practically on top of one another.
- First-semester exams after Christmas? Ack! This is the kicker. By starting school after Labor Day, it becomes physically impossible (even with fewer holidays) to complete an eighteen-week fall semester before Christmas. Anyone in the Lege who doesn't realize what a mistake this is has 1) never taught school, and 2) forgotten what it's like to be in school. Delaying the end of the semester into the next calendar year means that a great deal of time will be wasted after Christmas break doing review sessions. The year is broken in half rather nicely for a reason, and the lawmakers are messing with this just because some amusement park operators did some hardcore lobbying (just wait till later, when I do my post on how lobbying should be outlawed). This shows a shameful misplacement of priorities, and it's just not right.
I think I may be prompted to write my state senator and representative for the very first time because of this (OK, it'll be an email, but still, it's written communication). I would suggest that anyone else in Texas who doesn't like this idea should do the same.
Musing on music: I finally got caught up on some blog-reading today, and I noticed a post from Eric about covering songs from other artists; he asked if his fellow musicians thought this was a good thing or a bad thing. My response in the comments points out that in jazz, covers are called standards, and we play them all the time.