State News

House panel approves earlier school calendar

Posted May 11, 2009 2:46 p.m. EDT
Updated May 11, 2009 6:53 p.m. EDT

— Legislation that would let North Carolina schools start the academic year two weeks earlier each August has cleared a state House committee.

The House Commerce Committee on Monday voted 14-10 to recommend Bill 593 to the full House, where a vote is likely this week.

The bill would allow public schools to open as early as Aug. 8. A 2004 law requires most schools to begin no earlier than Aug. 25 and end by June 10.

"What we are putting forward in this bill is the idea of flexibility to make the decision for when the school year should start," said Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham.

Education groups said earlier start dates would allow for exams before the Christmas vacation and could avoid the need to schedule inclement weather make-up days during spring break.

"It is a way of improving test scores, improving flexibility. We're only talking about two weeks," said Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Madison.

The tourism industry is fighting the change because it would cut into traditional summer vacations.

"Don't you think this whole bill is the wrong time because of travel and tourism being the second-most-important (industry) in our state and we're losing jobs, losing money," said Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank.

Attendance at state parks grew by nearly 500,000 after the 2004 school-calendar law was adopted, tourism officials said.

"If leaving the school calendar as it is results in another two to three weeks' employment for part-time summer employees, which allows them to put food on the table, I'm going to vote against this bill," said Rep. Cullie Tarleton, D-Watauga.

The measure faces a Thursday deadline to pass the House or face a challenge to be considered in the next two years.