Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

MEDIA ADVISORY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 8, 2004
CONTACT: Doris Sanchez
Phone: (512) 463-0127

Sen. Lucio lauds Texas Comptroller Strayhorn's Report
citing a loss of $790 million annually for early school start-dates

AUSTIN, TX--With a strong show of support today for Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn on her special report on school start dates, Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., who has for years championed a later start-date in the Texas Legislature, praised her for her unwavering dedication to this cause.

"As the author of Senate Bill 108, I am elated that after years of work on this critical issue, we have a statewide leader who not only embraces our cause, but has also continued the research that again reveals the potential benefits of a later school start date," said Sen. Lucio. "It costs us more money--$790 million annually in lost income and additional expenses according to the Comptroller's latest report--to begin classes in early August."

Senate Bill 108 passed during the 77th legislative session and requires schools not start before the week in which August 21 falls, with Sunday as the first day of the week. However, a waiver was included in the House before passage there, and the Senate had to agree to the amended language or the bill would not have passed.

Sen. Lucio also praised Comptroller Strayhorn's plan to appoint a statewide task force to explore a later, more uniform start date for Texas, possibly after Labor Day. Teachers, administrators and community and business leaders will comprise the group.

"With this latest information on how much an early start date is costing the state, I hope that those who have historically opposed this initiative will reconsider their position," Sen. Lucio added. "This latest study shows that compressing the school year, while maintaining the 180-day instructional calendar, has proven successful in some of the highest performing states in the nation. There appears to be no correlation between earlier start dates and higher test scores. We didn't find it six years ago and again, we don't see it today."

"I am troubled that early school start dates continue to negatively affect migrant families economically and academically," explained Sen. Lucio. The report indicates that even if school began as late as the day after Labor Day, many migrant children would continue to miss the beginning weeks of the school year, making it increasingly difficult for them to catch up with their peers. The Comptroller further reports that 79 percent of migrant families (about 49,600) enroll their children in school in August, in time for the first day of classes. By returning to Texas, migrant families who earn $10,500 at $629 per week, forego close to $1,260 in lost wages--12 percent of their yearly income.

As far as the local control issue is concerned, Sen. Lucio reiterated the many mandates placed upon school districts. One of these is the waiver of instructional days. The median number of instructional days for 432 Texas school districts was 177 days, but nearly 29 percent are operating 180-day calendars in 2004-05. There was no correlation found between earlier start dates and a higher number of instructional days.

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