Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., District 27

For Immediate Release
Monday, March 7, 2001
Contact: Doris Sanchez
(512) 463-0127

Sen. Lucio announces changes to School Calendar Bill to be taken up in Senate Education Committee

AUSTIN, TX--Today state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, announced changes that include a referendum to Senate Bill 108, the School Calendar Bill.

"After meeting with various groups and members of the Legislature, I crafted a referendum that will ensure much more extensive community involvement in each school district's decision for the first day of school," explained Sen. Lucio. "I removed the language requiring school districts to begin classes no earlier than August 21.

"I have heard from both school teachers and parents who are unhappy with the earlier and earlier date that public schools start each year," said state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-Republican, a co-author of the bill. "Parents who have contacted me feel helpless when it comes to planning their children's summers and their family vacations."

The referendum will permit every voter within each school district to select one of the following time frames for that district's start date:

  1. the last full week in August
  2. the second to the last week in August
  3. the third to the last week in August
  4. September 1 or a later date.

The legislation also allows each school board to choose the day of the week each year that school should start, based on the week garnering the most votes through the referendum.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said, "Allowing local communities the flexibility to vote on their school district's start date would ensure a school calendar that meets local needs. SB 108 ensures that educators will consider feedback from parents and others who understand the impact of academic calendars on the community in general and on families in particular."

"Adding a referendum encourages broader community participation in every school district for selecting the first day of school, instead of our current system where either the school board alone decides with no input from the community, or calendar committees composed of a select group of people decide for everyone what the start date will be," added Sen. Lucio. "When I voted for local control as part of the Education Code, I did it with the full understanding that it

meant that a local decision would involve the community and have some sort of parameters. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case."

Sen. Lucio explained that it would be impossible for every voter to select the date he/she feels is the best start date, but given parameters, an election is not only possible but the fairest method of involving the community.

The proposition would be added to the next school district election or it can be added to the statewide November 2001 election on the Constitutional amendments. SB 108 would not require school districts to hold a special election for this purpose, but they may do so. If the bill becomes effective immediately, school districts with elections in May could still add the referendum at that time. However, an election cannot be held on a bill until 46 days or more have passed since the bill became effective. School districts would not be required to adhere to the new schedule until the 2002-2003 school year.

Sen. Lucio strongly encourages parents and teachers of migrant students to participate in the election and choose the week that they honestly feel is the best time to open schools with minimal loss of classroom time for these students.

"I urge everyone to vote for what is truly best for the children in their districts, and not for selfish motives that have nothing to do with the children's interests," he added. "I also ask people to take into consideration children who transfer from one district to another or move here from other states, most of which start classes at more reasonable times; children who must ride in un-air conditioned school buses in our August heat; and the expense and difficulty for families in finding daycare for a few days here and there as opposed to during the full summer."

"Many parents are hard-pressed to find childcare with the increase of holidays that come with an early school start date," added state Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, who has signed on as another co-author. "Our state's business sector is adversely impacted when the school start date is set earlier each year. This creates economic issues for the entire state of Texas."

Sen. Lucio explained that teenagers from low-income families who must earn money to help at home or those trying to save money for college with only the summer break to work full-time hours are needlessly shortchanged, as are the business that rely on them to operate. Businesses also lose profits when parents are forced to stay home with children on days that school is out and they have no one to care for their young children.

Another issue Sen. Lucio emphasizes that should be a factor in voting for a school start time, especially in the large metropolitan areas, is the increased air pollution that the combination of added vehicles at rush hours and the extreme temperatures of August create.

State Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio, is also a co-author of the bill, and state Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr., D-Houston, is the bill's primary sponsor in the House. Nineteen House Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors. The bill has been referred to the Senate Education Committee but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

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