The cost of starting school early - - Jackson, MS

The cost of starting school early

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By Ashley Conroy

RANKIN COUNTY, MS (WLBT) - For most schools throughout the state, school is back in full swing. However, one research study conducted by the Gulf Coast Business Council suggests starting school in early to middle August costs the state millions of dollars annually.

Parent Beth Stevens, from Brandon, is a mother of four who started doing research about this cost after she received an expensive summer electric bill.

"And I started thinking, what must it cost for the school system to try to keep the kids cool for the month of August," said Stevens.

In this study, she found that other states support a mandate for schools to start no earlier than middle of August to after Labor Day because of utility costs.

"The budget cuts that we have, it's insulting to me that we have such an easy out and we're not taking it," Stevens said.

Governor Haley Barbour conducted multiple rounds of budget cuts this year, a large portion sliced from education.

While some lawmakers proposed this legislation during the 2010 session, others say it would take away from school districts autonomy.

House Education Chairman, Cecil Brown, (D)-Jackson, says school districts currently have the right to decide when schools should start back.

"School districts for many years have been pushing for what's called 'home rule.' Let them make as many decisions at the local level as they can, and don't dictate from the state everything that goes on in the school district," Brown said.

In addition, Brown said though it may seem like it saves money on the front end, deciding how to determine 180 school days in a calendar year could get complicated.

"If you start Labor Day instead of let's say August 15th, do you want to end later? So if you end later towards the end of May it's already warmer, so you're going to be using utility costs on the other end of the year," said Brown.

This study surveyed around 1,000 Mississippians and found that 77 percent supported starting school towards the end of August.

It also mentioned that schools began to shift the start date during the 1980s, to fit in first semester exams before winter break.

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