Indiana lawmakers plan to renew school start-date debate

(WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — This week, many kids are back in school, but if some Indiana lawmakers get their way, they’d still be on vacation.

After barely failing in the Senate, state legislators plan to renew the school start-date debate next year. A debate fueled by a balanced calendar that spreads vacation time.

“I say it’s more time with your kids, if you don’t spend a lot of time with your kids anyways, right?” parent Lagiiana Williamson said.

But going back to school early takes away from longer summer breaks.

“Families really enjoy family time during the summer, more than anytime during the year,” parent Thomas Garner said. “At least our family does.”

This could change. State Senator Jack Sandlin, a Republican from Indianapolis, plans to introduce legislation that would make the start date the final week of August.

“Sometime around there,” Sandlin said. “Just so that we can make available that last month of August for kids and families to have opportunities.”

Lawmakers said there’s been an economic impact to a balanced calendar. From employers not being able to fill jobs with teenage workers, to revenue and attendance being down at places including the Indiana State Fair, which opens Friday after many kids are back in school.

“There’s a whole experience with staying at the fairgrounds and living at the fairgrounds with your exhibits, or your animals, or whatever you may be engaged in,” Sandlin said. “Kids are losing those opportunities.”

The Indiana State Teachers Association said it shouldn’t be up to the state. While they have concerns with July start dates, they, as well as some parents, think this is a local decision.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea to do it statewide so everybody is on the same calendar,” Garner said. “Everybody is different. Every family is different.”

“It don’t really hurt as long as they get it done within the time frame so these kids don’t lose education while they’re trying to get it done,” Williamson said.

Lawmakers said their bill won’t force schools to change what type of calendar they have. They would have to find a way to fit in 180 school days after starting in late August.

State Senator Jean Leising, a Republican from Oldenburg, authored the school calendar bill that failed by a single vote in the Senate last session. The bill mandated schools couldn’t start before the final Monday of August. She plans to reintroduce the bill next session.

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