FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 15, 2001
AUSTIN, TX--Today the House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 108 by state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, which will set a parameter for a school start date of no earlier than the week in which August 21 falls.
"I commend the work of state Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr., D-Houston, in getting this bill through the House," said Sen. Lucio. "This is a milestone for migrant students, public education and true local control, for which I voted."
Sen. Lucio was referring to the publicity the measure has generated since he first addressed school calendars in 1997 during the 75th legislative session, which generated unprecedented involvement by parents and teachers throughout the state in addressing excessively early school start dates throughout the state. In most districts, school boards would set the first day of school with little or no community input, and many still do. The bill continues to allow school boards to select the start date and to devise their individual calendars.
Migrant children, who number around 200,000 and no longer concentrated just on the Border, fare poorly because they return late--anywhere from August to late October-- from working up north with their parents and must then face making up days or weeks of classroom instruction. About 48 percent of migrant students live in Sen. Lucio's district.
The group, Texans for a Traditional School Year, headed by Ms. Tina Bruno subsequently formed in support of a later starting date for all public schools and Sen. Lucio credits them highly for helping in the passage of SB 108.
The bill that was introduced today in the House set a start date of no earlier than August 21 before an amendment was tacked on changing it to the week of August 21. The bill also includes a waiver from the Texas Education Agency for school districts that want to start earlier than August 21, requiring the following simple procedures:
- At least 60 days before the date the district submits the application for the waiver, the district must publish a notice in the newspaper--having general circulation in the district--stating that it intends to apply for a waiver and specifying the date the district intends to begin instruction.
- The district must hold a public hearing concerning the date the district plans to begin classes.
- The district must include in the application for a waiver a summary of the opinions expressed at the public hearing and any consensus of opinion concerning the date of the first day of instruction.
The Texas Tourism Industry, which backs the bill, relies on families vacationing during the full summer. Of the industry, Sen. Lucio said, "The tourism industry provides countless jobs, especially to our young people who come from low-income homes or are saving money for college. It is estimated that without tourism-generated taxes, each Texas household would have paid an additional $615.00 in property taxes last year."
Sen. Lucio also said that through this bill, teachers seeking advanced degrees may now be able to take both summer sessions to accomplish their goals. This in turn means better educated teachers for the children of Texas.
Campuses operating as year-round schools for 2000-2001 are exempt from the legislation, which becomes effective September 1, 2001, but would apply to the 2002 2003 school year.
"This bill has helped redefine local control, which should mean public control, in making decisions that impact them directly, whether they be educators, parents or business owners," added Sen. Lucio. "If members of a community want to change the school start date to before the week in which August 21 falls, then they should have the right to a public hearing to discuss this and the waiver provision allows this."
The measure, which should pass to third reading tomorrow, will require a simple majority by the Senate to concur with the changes. The Senate version that passed required school to start no earlier than the week of August 21 and did not include a waiver.