University of South Alabama (USA) recently polled Alabama voters and found that they “consistently expressed high levels of support for extending the length of summer breaks and maintaining local flexibility to schedule traditional holidays such as fall break, spring break, Mardi Gras, etc.”
Dr. Thomas Shaw the Director of the University of South Alabama Polling Group said in a press release that when asked when fall classes should start, “83% said late August or after Labor Day, with half of voters preferring after Labor Day. Similarly, they were asked when the school year should end – 81% indicated during the month of May before Memorial Day, with 24% preferring early May.”
Shaw explains that, “When given a choice between a longer summer vacation with traditional holiday breaks including local preferences for holidays like fall break and Mardi Gras – or a shorter summer vacation with frequent short breaks during the school year, registered voters overwhelmingly chose the longer summer breaks. 70% preferred traditional longer summers and only 27% supported the current short summer vacations.
At least two lawmakers agreed last year. According to an AL.Com article, Rep. Randy Davis, of Daphne and Rep. Craig Ford of Gadsden sponsored a bill to extend the school year during the 2018 legislative session. Neither bill sponsor is serving in the legislature this year and the bill has not been refiled.
According to the 2018 article, the bill filed last year could have led to up to a week of missed classroom time. Superintendent Ed Richardson cited that in his opposition to the plan, “The push back of the start date for the school year potentially means a decrease in instructional days,” he said. “As Alabama strives to improve student achievement, it is important that students receive as much instruction as possible.”
The article states that Richardson’s concern was that any decrease in classroom time, “could be problematic as Alabama cannot make academic progress with fewer days than the national average.”
That hasn’t stopped the bills supporters from touting what they would be beneficial to both students, families and the economy.
“From the beginning, registered voters strongly supported a proposal that would require public schools to begin no earlier than Labor Day and end no later than Memorial Day. Initially, a solid majority of 72% of registered voters favored this proposal while only 21% opposed it.” Voters were than asked a series of questions about possible impacts of lengthening the summer break and how these might impact their support or opposition to this proposal.
According to the AL.Com story on the 2017 bill, “City officials in Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Foley also view a later start date as beneficial.” They quoted the following officials:
“It helps our job market,” said Grant Brown, spokesman with the city of Gulf Shores. “If we have local kids who can work longer, we think that is a good thing. We see it as a positive to have it delayed a little bit.”
Said Ken Grimes, city administrator at Orange Beach: “Even if we gain one or two weeks into the latter part of August, it helps the economy of the state of Alabama tremendously as well as Baldwin County and the local cities.”
Added Mike Thompson, the city administrator of Foley, a retail mecca for Baldwin’s coastal region: “August is typically the fourth or fifth largest sales tax month of the year. The family vacation season does bleed into August, so we still see a good month.”