A few years back, our North Carolina legislature succumbed the heavy lobbying of the travel and tourism industry, as well as an organization called Save Our Summers, and passed a law that public schools can't start their school year before August 25 and must end the school year by June 10. This organization, called Save Our Summers, which has a Web Site here (Save Our Summers Website), lobbied and successfully pushed through this legislation which took the decisions about the yearly calendar out of school leaders hands. This organization claims to be a "volunteer coalition of parents, grandparents, and education professionals" and their purpose is to "preserve the summer months for outside-the-classroom childhood and learning experiences." In realty, one can only wonder if their real mission is to preserve a long summer calendar so that families will potentially spend more time and money filling the coffers of the travel and tourism industry in North Carolina. One can only suspect that their party is probably fully funded by the travel and tourism industry, but since they provide no transparency regarding their donors, who knows!
Today, I stumbled across this Op Ed from Texas entitled "King: Travel Industry Dictates School Schedule in Texas." Apparently, the state of Texas also suffers with the same problem: a sector of business and industry dictates school policy. In stead of being able to construct a school calendar that fits the needs of the school system and students, districts in Texas also have to create calendars that appease the tourism industry.
This problem is perhaps a symptom of a much, much larger problem with public education in the United States. Many, many educational decisions are not the result of sound, effective reasoning about what's ultimately good for kids; educational decisions are way too often the result of who lobbies the loudest and who can spend the most money to get what they want.
What's really interesting in North Carolina, charter schools don't have to abide by this calendar law. They can set their calendars to begin and end independently of the law. This, of course, brings up an entirely different question as to why should charter schools be exempt and public schools not. Don't the kids of those schools deserve the same consideration regarding the "preservation of the summer months for outside-the-classroom and learning experiences?"
Controlling the school calendar so that schools optimize learning for students and maximize district operations is common sense. One thing the legislature and governor needs to do if they want to prove they're supporting education this year is to give school districts back the flexibility of setting their school calendars instead of once again proving that they listen to special interests.