Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Truth of the Matter

Wake County is using two days of Spring Break to make up days missed because of snow. Keung Hui wrote an article in today's News and Observer pointing out that some people are blaming the 2004 "School Calendar Law" for the loss of those two days. Below, you will find a copy of a response I posted on Mr. Hui's blog.

 

I could sit here all day defending the merits of the 2004 school calendar law, but I doubt I would change any minds at this point. I'll share the following points/observations for those who care, then I'm off...

1) Do I think a spring break is important? Absolutely – I used to teach, so I know that teachers need a break, as well as students, and even parents. Do I think it is worth doing away with a law so that a spring break can be more secure? Absolutely not! We need to look beyond our own doorstep and consider the thousands (arguably, tens of thousands) of families across NC for whom a traditional summer schedule is a necessity, not just a preference. That’s why the law was supported by citizens across every gender, racial, socio-economic, political, etc. line you can think of. Not many laws can boast that. Why a necessity? For summer youth jobs to put food on tables and pay for clothes, college, etc.; for scholarships to camps, etc., that offer life-changing opportunities, and the list goes on … (see http://www.saveoursummers.com/quickref.asp)

Besides, based on research and experience, I believe that most NC parents would forego an entire spring break if it meant not starting school in late July or early August. That's what the 2004 law changed, remember?????!!!!!!!

 2) No matter what the school calendar is, make-up days will be established. For some, a break in the spring might be most important; for others, it is a hardship to have days added on to the end of the school year. Who’s to say which is more important?? Year-round schools have their make-up days on Saturdays. Some parents are flinging a fit about that, and those schools are exempt altogether from the 2004 law! Also, the law, to be fair and reasonable, includes waiver provisions for school systems that habitually miss a lot of school due to inclement weather.

 3) As of right now, Wake County still has a 6-day spring break from school. Have we gotten spoiled into expecting 7-10 days?

4) As I mentioned in Keung's article, I empathize with families who made plans beginning April 6th. I'm not trying to sound callous here, but I must mention that we have known about these make-up days for well over a year, maybe even 2 years. We knew that if we made "set-in-stone" plans, we were gambling on Wake County not having much snow - probably a good gamble considering our past history - but surely we realize that no one “owes” us those days now.

5) Perhaps MOST IMPORTANT to some are the results of a statewide poll which show that an overwhelming majority of North Carolina voters support the state’s August 25th school start date.

A random-sample survey conducted in the fall by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh showed 71 percent of likely NC voters support the existing law passed in 2004 establishing a statewide school start date no earlier than August 25th. Furthermore, when given a choice between starting school in late July/early August or in late August, 80 percent of respondents prefer a late August start date.

In the Triangle area specifically, 78% supported the 2004 school calendar law, and 80% favored a late August start date as opposed to late July/early August

I strongly encourage you to study the entire poll results, especially the crosstabs that break results down into almost every sub-category you can think of. Here's where you go:

http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/SchoolCalendarMemo1.pdf

Believe me, over the past 5 years, I have heard the law blamed for just about anything you can think of – it works to the advantage of those who see the law as a threat to their power and control, to tout it as a tourism scheme, and to stir up parental opposition to it. And what better opportunity than now? The 2004 school calendar law is so misunderstood, and has been so distorted, that it provides an easy and convenient “scape-goat”.

I find it ironic, in a humorous sort of way, that some of the parents (present company and those mentioned in Keung's write-up excluded) who are lamenting lost vacation time in April are the very ones who accused Save Our Summers - NC supporters of catering to the summer vacation crowd. Human nature is so interesting.

There you have it...have a great day everyone. I certainly intend to... Louise

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