Updated: Feb 16
Neal Jackson, a freshman representative from Moore and Randolph Counties, wondered why Raleigh should maintain calendars for all one hundred and fifteen school districts in North Carolina.
This is why he sponsored a bill that would let school districts choose when to start and end the school year.
“One of my principal beliefs is government works best when it is operated closest to the home, said Jackson. “The flexibility with the school calendar bill moves the decision of school start and finish dates to the local school and parents where I believe it belongs.”
Almost twenty years ago, local school boards determined the start and end dates of public schools in the state. When the state was fully Democrat-controlled in 2004, legislation passed requiring schools to open no earlier than August 25 and close no later than June 10.
State Board of Education members, school superintendents, and local school boards opposed the calendar change, but tourism lobbying influenced legislators more at the time.
Since 2012, the law has changed school start dates to no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26 and no later than the Friday closest to June 11.
Last year, Moore county school board members sent letters to government officials and House and Senate educational committees asking them to rescind the 2004 law. The letter stated that the local board was responsible for ensuring the best education possible and that in 2024 the school calendar would be based on educational needs, not tourism.
Leaders in dozens of districts have tried to change the law repeatedly over the years citing that low-income students in their districts suffer disproportionately from summer learning loss. These students could benefit from a modified school calendar with shorter breaks throughout the year, according to school officials.
District leaders also say that students and teachers would be better served with the first semester ending before the holiday break in December for exam scheduling.
Jackson was joined as a sponsor on House Bill 51 by District 70 Rep. Brian Biggs (R- Trinity), District 90 Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-Mount Airy), and Rep. Donnie Loftis (R-Gaston).
This bill as filed would affect Randolph County Schools, Asheboro City Schools, and three districts in Surry County: Surry County Schools and Mount Airy and Elkin city school districts, Moore County and Gaston County schools.