Texas Senate approves creating a later, more uniform school start date
AUSTIN, TX--Yesterday the Texas Senate voted 20 to 10 in favor of an amendment added by Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. to House Bill 2, the Public School Finance Bill, creating a uniform start date for public schools of no earlier than the first Tuesday after Labor Day and an end date of no later than June 7.
"This provision," said Sen. Lucio to his colleagues in the Senate Chamber, "responds to the requests through the years by hundreds of parents and teachers that the state set guidelines for a more sensible school calendar."
Sen. Lucio passed a bill during the 77th legislative session requiring that schools not start before the week in which August 21 falls, with Sunday as the first day of the week. However, a waiver provision was added to the bill in the House. Sen. Lucio's amendment approved yesterday strikes the waiver provision and is effective for the 2006-07 school year.
"I am elated that a later start date will alleviate some of the tremendous burden that early school start dates place on migrant families economically and academically," said Sen. Lucio. A 2004 study by the Texas Comptroller reported 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 to the early school start date, migrant families who earn $10,500 at $629 per week, forego close to $1,260 in lost wages--12 percent of their yearly income.
The same report also showed that if half of the state's 511,000 high school juniors and seniors hold part-time (30 hour per week/6 hours per day) jobs during summer, earning the minimum wage of $5.15 per hour, they would lose nearly $7.9 million in potential income for every day lost from the summer break. The report estimated that if one-third of Texas' 289,000 teachers work part-time (30 hours per week/6 hours per day) during the summer, and that they earn $6.57 per hour, they could lose another $3.8 million in potential income for every day lost from the summer break. The Comptroller determined that Texans could save $790 million annually if school started after Labor Day by recovering lost income for teachers, students and migrant families, and through savings in air conditioning bills and other expenditures.
"I thank the many individuals and groups, especially Texans for a Traditional School Year, for persevering alongside me to return to parents, children and teachers a more traditional summer vacation. A more sensible start date will also pay off economically so that our precious dollars are spent in the classroom and not on air conditioning or other costs that are unnecessary or can be curtailed," concluded Sen. Lucio.
Note: House and Senate members must now meet in conference on the Public School Finance Bill to finalize a bill acceptable to both Chambers.