The senate study committee tasked with evaluating public school calendars held its first meeting this week. According to the state, the committee is reviewing the effect of varied start dates on the travel and hospitality industries while insuring that there will be no disruption to the education of Georgias children. Georgias District 30 State Senator, Mike Dugan of Carrollton, is on that committee:
It is too early to have a full perspective. We heard from different educational groups during the first meeting. Well hear from other sides of the issue and subsequent ones, but were not going to form any views or opinions until we hear from everybody. It got spurred on because you have some school systems starting at the first part of July now. And we started getting questions about can students that need to work actually find employment during that stretch, which would have been are traditional work period for them. Is there educational benefits to having a longer school year or is it even a longer school year or are they just finishing sooner? There is a whole gambit of things that we wanted to look at without taking any of the educational experiences from the kids. You want the highest quality education system that you can possibly have. We need to review what we are doing and make were doing the right thing.
Dugan, who is the senate chairman of economic development and tourism, insisted that the educational aspect of this review far outweighs any tourism interest. Some believe tourism parties are hoping to extend summer breaks so that families can put money into tourism for at least one extra week.
Tourism is an important part but it doesnt even come close to equaling what we are doing in education. Those two dont cancel each other out. Education will be first always. If we are going to do education right, lets look at it and make sure we are doing it right. You know as well as I do that it costs a lot more to cool a school than it does to heat a school. And July and August and even in September and October are really warm. So how much is a school system spending to air condition schools during those months that would have traditionally been open? said Dugan. Another factor to look at is kids sitting on school buses. School buses are traditionally not air conditioned. Some of the school buses, when they are picking up kids, are 110 to 115 degrees inside the bus. Why dont we just air condition the bus? From what I have seen is that it is $30,000 to $40,000 for each bus. You count that with the number of buses across the state, it is three weeks or so worth of money that could go to education and other areas.
Dugan said another argument against changing the calendar is the potential for messing up the mandatory testing system, end of year tests. There has been no discussion on raising or lowering the mandatory 180 day school year. A second committee meeting has not yet been scheduled.