Bill Filed to Prevent Schools from Starting Before Second Full Week of August

GAE President Charlotte Booker advocates for local control over the calendar at October's hearing. (photo by Rebecca Gaunt)GAE President Charlotte Booker advocates for local control over the school calendar at October's hearing. (photo by Rebecca Gaunt)

Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) filed a bill to prevent Georgia’s public schools from selecting a start date prior to the second full week of August.

House Bill 421 would amend Code Section 20-2-168, saying, “No local board of education shall adopt a school year calendar that commences prior to the second full week of August; provided, however, that this shall not apply to schools that have year-round operation in accordance with subsection (e) of this Code section. Further, each local board of education shall solicit input from community organizations and parent organizations on the development and adoption of each school year calendar established by the local board of education.”

In late 2018, Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) led the Senate Study Committee on Evaluating the School Calendar of Georgia Public Schools, which was created to explore the possibility of a statewide start date after Labor Day. The committee received criticism for being dominated by members with ties to the tourism industry.

Representatives from the Georgia DOE, Georgia PTA, Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE), Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) and the Cobb County Association of Educators spoke to the committee, all requesting that school calendars remain under control of local school boards.

Superintendents Grant Rivera of Marietta City Schools and Chris Ragsdale of Cobb County School District have both said the calendar should remain under local control and that the community is able to weigh in on calendar options.

When asked about the bill, Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-32), whose district includes East Cobb, said, “Most of the feedback I have heard in Cobb is that the school district and the parents don’t want the state setting their schedule and my default is to local control whenever possible. I’ll have to wait and see if the bill crosses over as it could change before it gets to a point where I would be voting.”

Rep. Mary Frances Williams (D-Marietta) told the Courier in an email, “I strongly support letting local school boards set their own calendars.”
Rep. Stephens is also the chairman of the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee.

The full bill can be read here http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20192020/182315.pdf

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