Ohio Legislature Ponders School Start/End Dates
A bill introduced in the Republican-led Ohio House would require public schools to provide more hours of instruction, instead of the current set number of class days, but limit the school year for most of them to between Labor Day and Memorial Day.
Supporters say it would create a longer summer break and could boost tourism, but some lawmakers worry it doesn’t fit students’ best interests, the Dayton Daily News reported.
The Buckeye Association of School Administrators supports the increased hours requirement but not the limit on the school calendar because it takes away from local control, said Tom Ash, the group’s director of governmental relations.
“Some districts want more instructional time before tests, while some have to account for things like county fairs,” Ash said. “One size does not fit all.”
Under existing requirements, schools in Ohio must offer 182 days of instruction in a school year, which includes calamity days, with each school day including five or five-and-a-half hours depending on grade level. It amounts to 910 hours for elementary students and 1,001 hours for older students.
The bill would require 50 more hours for students, a level some schools already meet or exceed.
Having longer hours but fewer days of school could help districts manage costs for transportation, labor and heating and cooling their facilities, and the changes could help schools reclaim time lost to delays and dismissals by extending the hours of the school day, said GOP Rep. Bill Hayes, a Licking County lawmaker who helped sponsor the measure.
But it might also force some districts to shrink holiday breaks to squeeze in the required hours.
Democratic Rep. Clayton Luckie of Dayton, who opposes the measure, said he believes longer summers could hurt families by requiring them to make arrangements for keeping children in day care or summer programs longer.
“It’s not about giving kids more education, more value, more nothing — it’s just about tourism,” he said.
The Ohio Campground Owners’ Association and the boating association have spoken before the House Education Committee in support of the bill and its possible benefits for tourism, Ohio’s third-largest industry.
Republican Rep. Jim Butler of Oakwood said the House committee hasn’t heard from opponents yet, but he wants to be sure the state isn’t prioritizing tourism above education.
“The people who want to start the school year earlier seem to have valid points, and I want what’s best for students and makes Ohio more competitive,” Butler told the newspaper.