INDIANAPOLIS -- Members of the Senate Committee on Education voted 8-1 Wednesday to approve legislation, authored by Senators Mike Delph (R-Carmel) and Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis), that could extend Hoosier students' summer vacations by requiring Indiana schools to start after Labor Day.
"There are a lot of things to consider when going that route," South Putnam Superintendent Bruce Bernhardt said about the bill.
Senate Bill 150 would move the annual school start date to after Labor Day starting with the 2012 school year. Currently, Putnam County schools begin up to 15 days before Labor Day.
The legislation would maintain Indiana's 180-day requirement of instructional days and provide local school districts with flexibility in deciding a school end date in June.
"I think the quality of instruction is greater in August than it would be in June," Bernhardt said.
While the later start date would allow Indiana families more time to plan for summer activities, it could also disturb the Indiana High School Athletic Association's sports schedule -- football in particular.
There are normally two scheduled football games in August plus a scrimmage game. Bernhardt said revenue might be affected by the change in the school start date.
"I'm just speculating," he said. "But if school is not in session the attendance (at the football games) might be effected."
However, school districts could save money through utility costs, allow teachers to have more time for professional development and could help grow Indiana's economy, Schneider said.
"Many families in my district have contacted me frustrated and wondering why schools in our state continue to move start dates earlier each year," Schneider said. "This legislation has an added benefit to economic development and tourism by extending the summer season, as many who testified in favor of the bill pointed out."
Dozens of proponents in support of the bill held a rally last week at the statehouse wearing T-shirts stating, "School is cool... but not in August."
According to the National Conference of State Legislators, 13 states now have laws regulating school start dates, including several that require districts to start after Labor Day.
"Learning does not start when a child enters the classroom, nor should it end when a child leaves the classroom," Delph said. "I believe lawmakers have an opportunity to promote lifelong learning by providing Hoosier family members more time with one another."
SB 150 now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.