Debates have been happening for years on the date when the school year starts in Michigan. As schools began moving start dates up into August, in the 1990s, Michigan’s tourism industry took note. In 1999, the legislature passed the first bill restricting schools from starting prior to Labor Day. Since then, most schools start the Tuesday after Labor Day. There have been exceptions, and those exceptions continue to grow, including schools that follow the balanced calendar model, (spreading the 180 school days out over the year instead of chunking them into nine months). In the last couple of years, more and more schools are applying to the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) for waivers to start before Labor Day citing a variety of reasons.
Charter schools have long operated on a more independent structure that allows schools to meet the unique needs of the students and communities they serve. There are schools that have longer school years, longer school days, and classes on the weekends because that is what is best for the kids in that school. There are other schools where learning is done on campus and virtually, while kids are at home (or anywhere else they want to learn). This is what is best for the students at that school. Schools should have the maximum flexibility to meet the needs of the students in a particular community and should be able to structure their programs, days, and hours the best way to get the greatest achievement from the students they are educating. It is outcomes that matter, not the days or hours counted in the seats in the school building. This is why MAPSA supports SB 271, which would allow schools more flexibility on the start date of the school year.
It isn’t about whether a school should or shouldn’t start before Labor Day, it is about giving schools the ability to meet the needs of the students in a community the best way possible.