March 06, 2020 12:00 AM
Yesterday, Representative Steve Hurst introduced his school calendar bill, HB411. The bill allows local board of education to maintain local control to establish its school calendar, set the length of the school day, set the number of instructional days, and designate holidays, breaks, and teacher work days above and beyond student attendance days for the preK-12 schools under its jurisdiction.
The only requirement in the bill is school should start no earlier than the third Monday in August and end no later than May 31.
Last week, the Alabama School Journal included an article which interviewed Representative Steve Hurst about the school calendar bill. For more information about the school calendar bill read the article below.
Note: At the time the article was published the bill had not been introduced.
School Calendar Issue Heats Up
Rep. Steve Hurst, the man behind the issue, sat down with AEA to answer questions.
In the past few weeks, there has been misinformation spread throughout social media surrounding school calendar legislation. As of the day this issue of the ASJ went to press, there has been NO legislation introduced regarding school calendars. AEA sat down with Rep. Steve Hurst, who represents Calhoun, Clay, and Talladega counties – the potential sponsor – to discuss his draft legislation concerning school calendars. Throughout the interview Rep. Hurst emphasized he absolutely does not and would not do anything to hurt education, that is the last thing he would ever want to do. In fact, during his 22-year career as a representative, Hurst has been a staunch supporter of public education and educators. He has always voted with the education community and will continue to fight for public education.
“I have known Rep. Hurst for over 30 years, he has always done the right thing for education, supported his schools, and always been honest,” said AEA retired member Martha Livingston.
What is your purpose for bringing this bill?
In the past, sponsors of this type of legislation have talked about tourism. I’m approaching this from a different perspective. My focus is work force development – apprenticeships, internships, and credentials for students. My concern is there are about 60% of kids who choose not to go to college. We need a school calendar which will allow enough time in the summer for students to learn a trade, learn work ethic and discipline, and if children choose not to go to college then they have the opportunity to approach businesses for a job and begin training prior to graduation.
The problem with the current school calendar is the summer window is so tight that by the time students are out of school, hired for a job and put on payroll, they have about six weeks before they are getting ready to head back to school. This doesn’t give ample time for training or learning a new skill.
Governor Kay Ivey has stated Alabama will need 500,000 additional skilled workers by 2025. Reports have stated Alabama is on pace to have a shortage of close to 200,000 highly skilled workers by 2025-26 if nothing changes. All I am trying to do is help with workforce development by allowing students who want to get a head start in the skilled workforce an opportunity to do so. This bill could go a long way in helping address Alabama’s workforce needs.
What would be the start and end dates of the school year?
The draft legislation proposes adding a few additional weeks to the summer to address the workforce development issues.
Are you proposing extending the school day and keeping students from 8:00 a.m. to 5 or 5:30 p.m.?
Absolutely not. The information shared on Facebook about the bill extending the school days was a complete fabricated lie. Not only that, but it really bothers me that anyone would think some people want students to go to school until 5:30 p.m. This fabricated lie was a scare tactic used to make me dove tail and run, but I am not going to dove tail and run.
I have been informed schools could add 2 minutes to the school day, and with that addition, they could knock off one day of school.
Does this draft legislation allow local control?
Yes, the legislation I will propose will allow for local control of the calendars. The exact words from the draft legislation are “Each local board of education shall have local control in establishing the school calendar, setting the number of instructional days and designated holidays and breaks for the school under its jurisdiction.” The draft bill allows each local board of education to have control of establishing how schools will reach the required
instructional hours for the school year.
Do you have data to support Alabamians want an extended summer break?
We had a poll commissioned by the University of South Alabama Polling Group. The results of the polls say 85% of Alabama voters want to extend summer, 11% oppose the idea. Not only that we polled Madison County. Last time this summer break issue came up a few years ago, Madison County was the most resistant. The poll results from Madison County reveal 86% of the voters support an extended summer with only 12% opposed.
Additionally, NFIB shared they polled the organizations about 6,000 members and they’d like longer summer breaks for potential hires.
How long have you been working on this legislation?
I’ve been working on this issue for a little over a year. I have gone out and talked to different groups of people, including teachers, school superintendents, school boards, workforce development, business organizations, Community College Chancellor Jimmy Baker, National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), and the workforce development staff in Governor Ivey’s office.
I don’t want to do anything that will create a problem. I want to find a way for everyone to work with each other and not fight about it. Surely, we can take a little of what all stakeholders want and incorporate it all into a piece of legislation that everyone can be happy with.
When do you think you may introduce this bill?
The bill may drop in early March. I feel like we will get there, but I don’t know that we will get everything we want. We may not be able to get as many weeks as originally desired, but I feel we will get somewhere close.
Are you going to continue pushing this legislation if it’s not passed during the 2020 Legislative Session?
If we don’t get something workable, I am not going to quit. I am coming back every year.
Rep. Hurst invites parents, teachers, and school leaders to contact him, or their legislators, about the bill. He is open to working with the education community
to come up with solutions to whatever issues are expressed.
Sylvester James, an AEA member and constituent of Rep. Hurst, said, “I have known Steve for several years and he has always been a supporter of educators and I’m sure he will continue to support educators.”
According to Hurst, “It is wrong to continue to neglect the opportunity for kids to have jobs. It is wrong for Alabama to ignore the fact we don’t have enough workforce in Alabama. If we don’t start building our workforce little by little, we will lose industry to other states, the job market will decline, tax revenue will go down, and education funding will go down. So, we have a crisis, and this is something we need to deal with.”
AEA will continue to follow this possible legislation as it develops. As always, AEA will not allow any legislation to pass that will negatively affect Alabama educators.