State Senators: School in Kentucky Should Start Later

This opinion column is submitted by State Senators Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) and Chris Girdler (R-Somerset).

In an effort to preserve prosperity enjoyed by Kentucky’s tourism industry and our overall economy, we plan to again file a similar version of Senate Bill (SB) 129 for the 2016 Legislative Session. SB 129 is a measure that would prevent schools from starting earlier than the first Monday closest to August 26, granting local control to school boards should they choose to start classes before Labor Day.

If passed, SB 129 will have a tremendous impact on Kentucky’s tourism and agriculture industries without affecting the quality of education for our students.

The success and availability of our state’s water recreation, theme parks, golf courses and other summertime attractions are vital in improving the quality of life for families and also help support tax revenues that ultimately provide funding for our schools.

In Somerset, one can witness a drastic difference at our water parks, Lake Cumberland marinas, visitor’s centers and car shows when school starts back in early August. Somerset’s multi-million dollar water park shuts down August 3 because the majority of its employees and many of its visitors go back to school.  Why should we turn away out-of-state tourists from a water park in August when the outdoor thermometer still reads 90 degrees?

Georgetown has a city-owned water park that started closing on weekdays August 5 because of school being back in session. Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville also is forced to cut hours beginning the second week of August; it closes on weekdays or significantly cuts hours from August 12 through Labor Day because of classes starting.

According to a 2008 Tennessee study, it was estimated that if summer was extended through Labor Day, an additional $189 million would be generated in tourist spending. Iowa loses an estimated $314 million in revenue during the three weeks that the state's schools are in session before Labor Day according to a 2015 report prepared by the Travel Federation of Iowa.

The travel industry is not alone in benefitting from this legislation; we believe it will aid agriculture in Kentucky as well. One of the initial reasons for dismissing students on summer vacation was to allow children to work on family farms. When the majority of a family’s workers return to school, the farm is forced to struggle through the thick of harvest season.

Additionally, prolonging the start of classes will improve energy efficiency at schools and improve the safety and quality of life for our students. Utility costs caused by overtaxing of equipment in trying to cool down the large facilities in August would decrease.  The bill also would allow some students to avoid riding up to three hours a day on a school bus in August heat with no air conditioning as evidenced in our state’s third largest county of Pulaski.

Our legislation is designed to still allow local school boards the flexibility to determine their schedules; the bill simply prohibits schools from starting classes before the Monday closest to August 26.  The bill also allows for waivers for districts missing large amounts of days due to inclement weather.

Many teachers have informed us that fall breaks cause a major hindrance to students.  Teachers have said that students “check out” early before these three- and four-day breaks, forcing the educators to re-teach earlier lessons and thus disrupting the learning process.

This bill would come at no cost to taxpayers and will have no affect on the quality of our children’s education. Our bill will generate more funding for local and state budgets and the economy. If we want to make an impact on tourism and help Kentucky's economic development efforts, we think this is a real solution.

We strongly believe that Kentucky needs statewide continuity with our school calendar and hope to make some serious strides in improving tourism and economic development through this legislation, while saving our summers starting in 2016.

Note:  Senator Chris Girdler (R-Somerset) represents the 15th District encompassing Boyle, Lincoln and Pulaski counties.Senator Girdler currently chairs the Senate’s Tourism Development Committee as well as the Budget Review Subcommittee on Economic Development and Tourism, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and is Vice-Chair of the Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, Agriculture Committee, Banking and Insurance Committee, and the Natural Resources and Energy Committee.  In addition, he is Chairman of the Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee. 

Note:  Senator Thayer represents the 17th Senate District which includes southern Kenton County, as well as all of Grant and Scott Counties.  He is Senate Majority Floor Leader, as well as a member of the Agriculture Committee, the Committee on Committees, the Legislative Research Commission, the Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations Committee, the Rules Committee, and the State and Local Government Committee.