FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 15, 2000
AUSTIN, TX--Today state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, held a press conference in the Texas Senate Chamber to announce the pre-filing of Senate Bill 108, his School Calendar Bill, which sets a starting date of no earlier than August 21.
The bill would allow parents, teachers or residents of a school district to request from the superintendent's office that the board of trustees hold a public hearing to determine the most appropriate first day of school for that district. The request may be done in person, by mail or by telephone, and the bill requires that school boards comply with these petitions, which can be made annually.
To help end a discriminatory practice by school districts in which they ignore migrant students and continue to set calendar dates that are impossible for them to follow, Sen. Lucio added another provision. The bill addresses the waivers granted to school districts with migrant populations of over 5 percent. Currently, a school district with 5 percent or more migrant students can waive two of the six, six-week reporting periods. Funding for schools is partially based on attendance. Under this proposal, school districts with migrant populations of 5 percent or more, with an absenteeism rate of over 3 percent for the waived six weeks of the previous year, can be exempted for one six-week reporting period, if they start school no earlier than August 21, but before September 1. Those schools that begin classes on, or after, September 1, can continue waiving both six-week periods.
"I want to see our schools make an honest effort to provide an equal education to all students by setting appropriate start dates," explained the Senator, who added that he feels our schools are violating equal protection of the laws (the fourteenth Amendment) to migrant students.
Senate Bill 108 further requires every school board representing a district with a 5 percent or higher migrant student population to hold a special session every year prior to setting its school calendar to determine the fairest starting date in consideration of its migrant students. These school boards would also be required to report their findings to the Commissioner of Education, including a justification for their specified start date.
"After much deliberation, and after hearing from hundreds of parents from throughout the state, I developed this proposal," said Sen. Lucio. "Let there be no doubt that our Texas students, their families, and teachers are the focus of this school calendar legislation. I found this to be a reasonable and fair compromise. This parameter will allow every school district to determine its own calendar with a specific starting date, holidays, teacher in-service dates and when to administer mid-term exams."
Although the bill shows an ending date of no later than the first full week in June, Sen. Lucio plans to amend it to an ending school date of no later than the first seven days in June.
Sen. Lucio added, "Let me make it perfectly clear that this proposal is a starting point. I foresee and look forward to in-depth discussion of this legislation."