A majority of Ohio voters, including both parents and teachers, support starting the school year later in the summer — in contrast to a statewide trend that has more districts opening earlier, as early as the first week of August.
A survey commissioned by the Ohio Travel Association found that 71 percent of voters said schools shouldn’t start before the end of August. Among the reasons why: High temperatures in August that make learning difficult.
The travel association, a trade group that represents tourism-related businesses, has been lobbying for a later start to the school year – in part to extend the summer travel season and also to better ensure that tourism-related businesses can find young people to work through the summer.
The organization supports a proposed law by State Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, which would require school districts in Ohio to start after Labor Day unless local school boards hold public hearings on an earlier start date.
The trend toward earlier start dates is fueled, in part, by state-mandated testing that occurs in the spring. Starting earlier gives schools more time to prepare for the tests.
Public Opinion Strategies conducted a statewide survey of 800 registered voters in September. A large majority – 93 percent – said they had never been asked their opinion by their local school boards about when the school year should begin.
Sixty-six percent of Ohio voters said they support the proposed law, including 65 percent of teachers and 61 percent of parents.
Said Manning: “They’re the ones paying the taxes. They should have a voice on this.”
She added, “I’m not asking for less days or less hours. Children are still going to go to school the same amount of time.
In addition to the August heat, voters identified several other reasons for supporting a later start date: greater uniformity across the state, increased ability for students to secure summer jobs and internships, more family time and lower school utility costs.
Manning said starting later would give families more opportunity to vacation in Ohio, when the weather is nicer. “The weather isn’t as good in May and the first part of June,” she said. “August is almost always dry and hot. Michigan has been doing this for a number of years. Michigan tourism doing very well.”
Melinda Huntley, executive director of the Ohio Travel Association, said the survey was commissioned to give greater clarity about what the public wants. “This issue has been discussed for many years,” she said. “It was important to identify what Ohioans really thought about it.”
She said support for a later start to the school year cut across all demographics and regions of the state. “It’s something that people really feel strongly about.”