Ohio House Bill 191 basically has two specific outcomes. First, changing the definition of a school year from a minimum number of days to a minimum number of hours. Second, restrict districts to beginning school after Labor Day and ending the year before Memorial Day (with exceptions for calamity days and year-round schools). This second component is specifically intended to lengthen the summer break (because there’s SO much research showing how valuable a longer summer is for students).
To be fair, co-sponsors Bill Hayes (R) and Bill Patmon (D) aren’t really interested in having a positive outcome for children. This bill is about the almighty dollar.
One of the impetuses for this legislation, specifically the stipulation that schools start after Labor Day, would be to help the tourism and recreation industry that loses business when kids go back to school, said Hayes.
“Part of the reason for this bill was to see if the school community would cooperate and start school later so that our third-biggest industry in Ohio … can thrive and generate revenue for the economy that’s suffering so terribly in the state,” he said “And also generate revenue for the state, part of which gets passed down to the school.”
In order to investigate this bill, we polled some future voters to gather their thoughts on the effects of this legislation on the school year. Well actually, I polled a single future voter, my 12-year-old son. As a sixth-grade boy, it turns out he is an expert on the length of both the academic school year AND the length of summer break.
Together, we looked at the length of his current school year as it compares to the proposed changes. HB191 proposes changing the minimum school year from 182 days to:
- 480 hours for half-day kindergarten,
- 960 hours for full-day kindergarten and grades 1 through 6,
- and 1,050 hours for grades 7 through 12
Since he attends a middle school with grades 6-8, we opted to use the highest number, 1,050 hours, to do our calculations.
Our conversation went something like this:
Me: How long is your school day right now?
Him: Classes start at 7:40 am and end at 2:45 pm.
Me: So your normal school day is about 7 hours long. How long is your lunch period?
Him: 7 hours and 5 minutes to be exact. Lunch is 20 minutes and then we have advisory where we can get help with work.
Me: If I were to estimate, then 6 1/2 hours would be a safe number to use for your school day, right?
Him: It would be 6 hours and 45 minutes long. Why would you need to estimate?
Him: Do they really want to make summer break longer? That would be awesome! Why are you against that?
Me: I don’t think students should be spending less time in school than they already are. Okay, so you currently attend school for 179 days per year. Multiplying 179 times 6.75 hours equals 1208 hours that you attend school each year [professional development and conferences times are still exempted so do not need to be recalculated with HB191] If we take the new number of required hours – 1,050 – and divide it by the 6.75 you’re attending, what’s the number of days?
Me: Therefore, the new law could lower your number of school days from 179 to 156. 23 fewer days is over four weeks of school cut from your year.
Him: WHAAAT? Are you serious? So Dad, you’re saying this would mean I would get four more weeks without school? DO IT! C’mon, Dad, I don’t get why you don’t like this.
There you have it. Kids like summer break, kids like days off, and HB191 is endorsed by at least one VERY excited 6th-grader. I’ll declare a win for this in the under-18 crowd. And lest you think kids don’t influence policy, remember that John Kasich’s daughter’s love for snow days prompted him to call for legislative changes.
Forget the Labor Day start date conflict, we won’t need to start until October. Or if your community revels in HS football, then simply take all of January off instead! Those pesky problems with snow days can be solved by extending Winter Break all the way through Groundhog Day. Or simply move Graduation ceremonies to April 30 and eliminate classes for the whole month of May. Any of these options will STILL meet the Labor Day – Memorial Day requirements and garner the support of Ohio’s children.
Representative Hayes’s plan is taking shape. Through this legislation, we can shorten the school year and lengthen the summer break (by a full four weeks!) in order to prompt tourism revenue in the state. Families not in school can spend more money in Ohio’s tourism industry, generating revenue for our economy. In Hayes’s exact words:
Part of the reason for this bill was to see if the school community would cooperate and start school later so that our third-biggest industry in Ohio … can thrive and generate revenue for the economy that’s suffering so terribly in the state.
Representative Hayes is rumored to be following up this bill with legislation that will mandate all Ohio employers to grant an additional four weeks of vacation to all employees with school-age children. He has to, right? Our kids may be excited by the prospect of more time off for school, but who do they think will be taking these children to the state parks and recreation areas? Absurd. This bill is obviously written by people who do not young children.
The third-biggest industry in Ohio after this bill is passed will no longer be tourism, it will be daycare. A local Goddard School charges $200 per week for a single child. A home daycare in a smaller area may be as low as $100, but that should be considered in the context of the local economy. This legislation, in addition to shortening the school year, would require many parents to seek out expensive child-care costing an additional $400 – $800 (if they can even find it).
Last year, Ohio had 738,000+ children enrolled in grades K-5. If only 1/2 of those children require daycare when they aren’t in school, we’re looking at 369,000 children with accompanying daycare costs of between 147 - 295 million dollars in new expenses for young working families in Ohio. That is “expendable” income that these families with children, the target audience for Ohio’s tourism industry, are now pumping into daycare and will no longer have free to spend at Ohio’s attractions.
Economically, this bill won’t HELP Ohio’s in-state tourism, it will serve to KILL it.
All that and I didn’t even discuss the negative impact this would have on student learning (massive).
But for the record, kids love it.