Florida Parents Question Early Start Date for Children's School Year

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Sherry Sturner says she’s fed up with schools moving up their starting dates every year. She says going back in early August is totally messing up summer vacations for her two kids.

Sherry Sturner says, “We have family up north and we could not coordinate for the cousins to get together and see each other. When we were off, they were on. When they were on, we were off.”

Sturner caught the ear of state Rep. Dan Gelber, who blames the trend on FCAT.

Rep. Dan Gelber, (D) Miami Beach, says, “Right now school districts can start earlier and earlier and get an advantage in FCAT preparation over their neighboring districts, which is really unhealthy because at the end of the day, I understand you’ll even have a district in Florida starting in late July.”

Gelber is sponsoring a bill that says no school could start earlier than a week before Labor Day. He says schools would save money on air conditioning costs and have fewer days to worry about hurricanes.

But school districts aren’t too thrilled with Tallahassee telling them what to do. They say leave it to the locals who better know the needs of their own students and parents. Schools say they need the extra time to give mid-semester exams before the winter break.

The State Superintendents’ Association CEO, David Mosrie, says pushing the start date back would also make it hard to coordinate dual enrollment programs.

David Mosrie says, “There are a variety of reasons why this becomes a bad idea. This needs to be a local decision made by local people.”

But vacation-planning parents promise to push hard for the later start when the legislative session begins in March.

The bill mandating a statewide school start date of no earlier than a week before Labor Day has its first House committee meeting Tuesday.