Education can be a controversial topic in Texas. We have emphasized its importance many times, but there are some aspects of public education today that go against common sense.
One of these problems involves the late start Texas students get every year. In 2006, the state Legislature passed an amendment to Texas Education Code — Section 25.0811, which postponed the start of school until the fourth Monday in August. The original code prevented schools from starting earlier than the week of Aug. 21.
There were many reasons for this decision.
Legislators cited a need to take migrant worker schedules and summer employment into consideration, as well as a shortened tourism season, higher school operation costs and the need for summer teaching and training programs.
While we appreciate the need to be frugal with public money, especially in such an essential area as education, we think making the decision to extend summer vacation to cut back on utility costs is a short-sighted move by the state Legislature.
Public schools have received budget cuts from the state, but their main focus should always be educating students.
According to the National Summer Learning Association, students lose retention of the information they learned in the previous school year. Expanding summers will only exacerbate this problem, forcing teachers to waste time reviewing last year’s material instead of being free to move on to new concepts.
The argument to give students and their families a longer tourism season seems superficial when compared to the need for improved education in Texas. According to the state comptroller’s website, Texas is ranked 36th in the nation for high school graduation rates. When looking at SAT scores, the numbers are even worse. Texas is 49th in verbal SAT scores and 46th in average math SAT scores.
We understand there are students whose families take full advantage of the summer vacation and also participate in summer learning activities, such as educational camps and visiting historic sites. But there are others who spend all summer at home playing video games, watching TV or doing other things that waste the valuable time they have instead of taking the initiative to expand their minds on their own.
For the students who are willing and able to take advantage of their breaks, longer summers are an asset, but many waste the summer away. Giving them more time will not change their behavior.
We would like to see the state Legislature re-examine this scheduling law. When we look at Texas’ educational ranking, as well as the lack of savings to our local district, it is clear this expanded summer vacation is not benefiting our students the way it should.
Perhaps it is time to take another look at schedules and think about what’s best for students, rather than what will save money and boost tourism economies. We can’t afford to leave our future high and dry in favor of current prosperity.