The lives of educators are getting more difficult, a-gain. The program of death by a thousand cuts undertaken by the NC General Assembly (GA) continues unabated. The latest, and not well known, cut involves the increasing difficulty of creating a legal school schedule. You, gentle reader, might not recall that school calendars are not created with the principle goal of educating young minds, but rather to maximize the profits of the coastal tourist industry.
In 2003, after successful lobbying by a group called “Save our Summers”, the GA passed legislation stipulating that the school year must start no earlier than Aug. 25 and must end no later than June 10. Apparently if people go to the beach before June 10 or after August 25, the dollars they spend don’t count as much in helping the tourist industry turn a profit.
In 2011 the GA modified the original legislation to add five more student days to school calendars statewide. Other stipulations involve workdays, annual leave days and professional development days. The result is that school superintendents are having a much tougher time creating a legal school calendar. A further result is that teachers’ usual holidays get changed and warped to make things fit within the shrinking options available to superintendents.
No raises in four years, having to return pay back to the state, having zero textbook money for years, school systems losing thousands of educators and having to pay more for our benefits isn’t enough. Now teachers have their holidays affected. Christmas was shortened this year, and Thanksgiving will likely be shorter next year as well. Why the heck any young person would want to become a teacher is beyond me, but I am very thankful that they do.
All it would take to open up the calendar process and allow superintendents some flexibility in creating their systems’ calendar would be for the GA to allow them 5 flex days so they could change the start or end dates of the school year by a few days either way. This flexibility would flow through the school year, relieving the pressure involving the placement of work days, professional development days, annual leave days, and yes, holidays.
It would be very nice for the Honorables in Raleigh to put the students and teachers of North Carolina first for a change and not genuflect so completely to the tourism industry. At least, at the very least, they could return some common sense to school calendars by allowing superintendents some flexibility in their creation.