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Educators Denounce Bill to Shorten School Year; Kids Hail It

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Monday, February 13, 2012 at 1:51 PM

Chris Parfitt / Flickr

Often, when it comes to adjusting the school year, the idea is to extend it. But a bill sitting in the Ohio House Education Committee is intended to do the opposite. And some people don't think shortening the school year is such a great idea.

As introduced, HB 191 would limit the school year to Labor Day through Memorial Day and also change state laws about the minimum time students actually have to spend in school. Currently, schools must be open for 182 days. The bill would have districts count school time in hours rather than days. That could -- emphasis on the could -- allow districts to shorten the time students spend in school.

The bill's co-sponsor, Rep. Bill Hayes, R-Harrison Township, told StateImpact last year that he introduced the bill in order to boost Ohio's tourism industry.

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Hayes has since made changes to the law in response to opposition from education groups. Those changes include eliminating provisions about when extracurricular activities can start and eliminating the requirement that the school year end by Memorial Day.

Still, the Ohio School Boards Association and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials oppose the bill, as do several school superintendents and newspaper editorial boards. Ohio School Boards Association lobbyist Damon Asbury told legislators:

"We certainly believe that school districts and school children need more time on task, they need a longer school year, they need a longer school day, but this bill provides neither the mechanism nor the resources to make that possible," he said.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer calls HB 191 an "idea worthy of detention." The Columbus Dispatch says "it was a bad idea in 2007, and it’s a bad idea now." The Advertiser-Tribune in Seneca County says HB 191 might not really change things in practice, but still isn't a great idea:

But, as it is written, the measure might not have much impact. It would allow a school district to set its own calendar by conducting a public hearing and having the school board vote on a date for classes to start. This isn't vastly different from the way school calendars currently are set.

And in eastern Ohio, superintendents told the Dover/New Philadelphia Times-Reporter that they don't like the bill either:

“This sends the wrong message to the people of Ohio with new school standards coming out,” said Newcomerstown Schools Superintendent Jeff Staggs. He wondered why the state would condense the time that school districts have to prepare their students to get ready for new tests and curriculum that will take effect in 2014 and 2015.

But over on the liberal blog Plunderbund, Greg Mild found support for the legislation among future voters -- namely, his 12-year-old son:

Him: Do they really want to make summer break longer?  That would be awesome!  Why are you against that?

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