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Opening Arguments

School daze

Despite calls from some parents and legislators for a later start of the school year, educators are having none of it:

Last year, the most popular start date was Aug.18, the third Tuesday of the month. Thirty-eight districts started on that date, while 119 started before that and 24 started after.


This year, the most common date is Aug. 17, also the third Tuesday, with 44 districts starting classes then, 107 starting before and 52 starting after.

I tend to agree with John Ellis, president of the School Superintendents' Association, who did the survey, that the debate over start dates ignores the real issue, which is number of days: "China and India recently just adopted over 240-day school years, and we're sitting here at 180 and wondering why we're not competing in some areas with those two countries." Rather, that's one of the real issues, along with length of the school day, start time of the school day (teens seem to do much better with an hour-later start time), whether we should stay with the agricultrual-era 9-month school year or go to a year-round system, what's taught, how it's taught, what defines success and how it's measured.

But for now we have to do the best we can with the system we have, and the before/after Labor Day demarcation line has been a strong part of our history. The district that's really pushing some legislators' buttons is Warren Township down Indianapolis way, which started school this Monday, prompting State Sen. Mike Delph to say he was furious that the kids had to start "well before the beginning of the Indiana State Fair." Oops, there's that pesky agricultural link again.