By Senator Bill Holtzclaw
There is no doubt that tourism is very important to Alabama and our state and local budgets—but should that be the driving factor in setting a school calendar? I have to ask myself, if this is such a great idea for our children, then why aren’t the local school boards already setting the calendars as such? I maintain this is a local issue and should be set locally, not in Montgomery.
An analysis of the house vote on HB 360, a bill mandating a state-wide school calendar, reveals 63% of the yes votes cast (39 of 62) were by Republicans. What happened to the Republican agenda of less government; a smaller government that is accountable to the people at home? Why is state government influencing local decisions? Would we not be up-in-arms if the federal government attempted to impose a nation-wide school calendar? Why then do we think it is ok for Montgomery to dictate a state-wide school calendar?
This bill passed the House for one reason and one reason only—the almighty dollar. As the tourism industry lobbied for passage of House Bill 360 they touted millions of increased tourism dollars flowing into Alabama’s economy – albeit a good thing, especially in this troubling economy, but at what cost? Yes, what cost? School calendars are about the education of our children, not about tourism. While the tourism industry touts the idea of Alabama beaches being covered with families for an extra two weeks, others are examining the facts centered on our children’s education. Studies support the “brain-drain” that occurs when school breaks occur over extended periods. These long breaks result in teachers having to re-teach concepts when children return to school, causing our children to be set further and further behind. Classroom realities such as this are what school calendar decisions should be based on.
I will agree that local school leaders could do a better job of coordinating regional school system calendars. For example, it is often problematic when Huntsville City, Madison City and Madison County Schools schedule spring or fall breaks on different weeks. Yes, leadership can do better at coordination breaks, but in the end the decision should remain in their hands.
Will the tourism industry sway the votes to further move HB360 through the Senate? I will continue to oppose HB360 based on my belief in smaller, local government that is responsible to the people, locally.
The bottom line for me – if Bill Holtzclaw, the parent (not the State Senator) of a child attending public schools attends a school board meeting to voice concerns over the school calendar and the Board replied – “sorry, our hands are tied; the calendar is set by the folks in Montgomery” – then my voice is effectively silenced. I was not elected to go to Montgomery to silence the voice of the people I represent and I will not support this legislation.