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Back to School Too Soon

This month I released my special report on school start dates, Saving Summer: Lessons Learned, in which I determined early August school-start dates cost Texans $790 million annually in lost income and additional expenses.

Today, the school year is more than two weeks longer than it was 50 years ago, but the number of instructional days is the same, or even fewer in some cases. As my special report shows, the academic benefits of stretching the school year have not been proved, but the economic and societal costs are known and real.

The economic and societal costs include increased utility bills to air condition schools during the hottest summer month; increased daycare expenses to teachers; lost income to teenagers with part-time jobs and teachers with summer jobs; and migrant workers forced to choose between leaving their jobs early to enroll their children in school or have them miss the first few weeks of classes.

I renew my call for the Legislature to shorten the school calendar, extend summer vacation and remove the start-date waiver loophole in the current law. A nine-month school year that begins after Labor Day is feasible. I am assembling a task force made up of teachers, administrators and community and business leaders to explore alternatives to early school-start dates and lay out a plan for a nine-month school calendar.

The budget challenges in Texas are putting a financial strain on everyone--especially our schools. Fiscal discipline is more important than ever before. My goal is to drive more of every education dollar directly into the classroom with teachers and students where it belongs.

As districts all across the state are fighting harder than ever with less assistance from the state to do the jobs they have to accomplish, a shorter school year makes sense.

Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Texas Comptroller