GOP state senators propose delaying start of Kentucky's school year

08/20/2015 05:22 PM

GEORGETOWN — Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, and Sen. Chris Girdler, R-Somerset, are working on legislation that would mandate schools in Kentucky not return from summer break until at least the Monday closest to August 26.

Keeping kids on break longer will positively impact Kentucky’s tourism economy, Thayer said, remarking on a Georgetown water park and boaters at Lake Cumberland in mid-August.

“There are no older high schoolers available to work and there are no families with kids out of school that are able to attend these attractions,” Thayer said. “On the education side, I just don’t see how it’s beneficial to have kids in school during the hottest month of the year.”

“Energy costs have to be higher,” he continued. “It’s more expensive to run buses and air-condition schools during this month, and there are over a dozen other states who start late August or after Labor Day, which is my personal preference.”

Thayer’s bill is based on observations and studies from other states, but he hopes to have an independent study conducted in Kentucky to back his claims.

Of course, not everyone is on board with the plan. Stu Silberman, the retiring executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, told Insider Louisville recently that he feels the proposal should be left up to local school districts, and he added that unless schools changed the rest of their calendars the proposal could impact June tourism.

The hope from the senators is that local school boards “eliminate fall break” and trim down on other breaks at Christmas and Thanksgiving.

“This will not be mandated in the bill — only the school start date will be mandated,” Thayer said. “But it’s my hope they’ll look at the rest of their schedule and keep these kids in school. Once they start school they should stay in school. It’s better for their education.”

Thayer, who at time rails against federal controls placed on Kentucky, said he sees a need for local control, but in this case there needs to be statewide policy sent to school districts.

“I am for local control, but in this case I think we need some standardization statewide of the school calendar,” Thayer said. “Look, we appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to local school districts, and I think it’s wholly appropriate for the General Assembly to have some say in certain policies.

“If you want the money from time-to-time, we’re going to set statewide policy.”

Recognizing the unpredictability of the weather, Thayer said snow days would be addressed with a waiver in the legislation.

Some opposition to the legislation is expected, Thayer said, but he does not expect it to bring a partisan split. The bill was filed in February of this year’s short session and heard in the Senate Education Committee “just to get it out there,” Thayer said but no vote was taken.

“We intend to push it strongly in the next session, and it is my hope that by this time next year there are no schools open in Kentucky at this time of the year,” he said.


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