Is the added revenue worth the high cost?

Published 4:08 pm Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Tourism is vital to Alabama’s economy.

Need proof?

Here it is. The Senate recently passed HB 360, which if signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley, would require the state’s public schools to start the next two school years no earlier than two weeks before Labor Day and to wrap things up no later than the Friday before Memorial Day.

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The change would lengthen the state’s summer holiday. The hope is that would mean another two weeks of trips to the Alabama Gulf Coast, which the state’s Tourism and Marketing Committee estimates would generate $22 million for the state’s Education Trust Fund.

We certainly agree that in these difficult economic times our lawmakers need to find creative ways to generate revenue that doesn’t include more taxes, but we’re not sold on the idea of allowing the tourism season to dictate our school calendars.

Setting the school calendar should be the work of Butler County Schools Superintendent Darren Douthitt and his staff and the officials elected to the Butler County Board of Education. It shouldn’t be a decision made in Montgomery.

You don’t need to be a detective to figure out why this bill passed. It passed because of money, money, money. Our state needs more of it. We’re not arguing that. But while this change may generate $22 million, what is it going to cost us?

A study by Harris Cooper, Professor of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri shows that long summer breaks have a negative impact on students.

Cooper’s study found that a long summer vacation breaks the rhythm of instruction, which leads to forgetting, and requires a significant amount of review of material when students return to school in the fall.

Cooper believes the solution is a modified calendar in which children might or might not attend school for more days, but the long summer vacation is replaced by shorter cycles of attendance breaks.

We’re not sure that’s necessary. What we are sure of is that when it comes to educating the children in our community, that decision should be made with the best interest of the students in mind rather than tourism dollars. After all, educating our children is the key to our state’s future success.