Commentary: Lesson up! Start school year after Labor Day

State Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Georgetown, wasted no time at the outset of the 150th Delaware General Assembly in sponsoring legislation, SB 204, directing public schools in the state to start the school year after Labor Day.

Other primary sponsors of the measure include Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride (D-New Castle) and House members Ronald Gray, R-Georgetown, and Earl Jaques, D-Glasgow, denoting its bipartisan backing. The change makes sense for many reasons.

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff

For the current generation of young students, the school year is long enough as it is. From preparing for mandatory state tests to having to make up snow days, most school districts do not end the academic year until mid-June.

While the argument to start the school year early included a likely increase in academic performance, that outcome has not transpired. Too, the longer-year approach ignores the possibility of student learning in summer months, whether advanced or remedial, at a more voluntary pace.

A post-Labor Day start to the public school calendar will allow students to work until the end of August rather than sitting in a classroom. As Sen. Hocker noted in a letter to the editor recently, many beaches lack lifeguards in the weeks prior to Labor Day due to the early school start. Of course, there are several other occupations held by young people, which similarly suffer when most employees leave at once.

Both Virginia and Maryland have rules permitting local school districts to determine calendars, but most districts within those states do in fact begin classes post-Labor Day.

In Maryland, Larry Hogan made the school calendar an issue in his successful campaign for governor and fought to implement the post-Labor Day start once elected.

There are certainly advantages in having all Delmarva follow similar public school schedules.

Previous economic studies in Maryland and Virginia estimated that over $400 million in combined lost wages, taxes and tourist revenue would be spared with the after-Labor Day school start.

Given that tourism is one of Delaware’s driving economic sectors, it behooves state elected officials to act expeditiously to protect this revenue.

According to SB 204, the proposal to begin the public school year in Delaware after Labor Day will take effect for the next academic year if enacted. Labor Day is the latest it could be this year, Sept. 7, making the case for a return to school after the traditional end-of-summer holiday even stronger.

For Delaware’s K-12 students, a winning chant: “It’ll be great to start school on September 8!”

By Dr. Samuel B. Hoff

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff is George Washington Distinguished Professor for the Delaware State Society of the Cincinnati and Professor Emeritus of History and Political Science at Delaware State University.