School Calendar Law – History, Importance and Continued Advocacy Efforts
Each year, North Carolina’s School Calendar Law is a hotly debated topic. At issue is whether there should be consistency in the start and end of the school year throughout the state, or each district having their own school calendar.
Prior to School Calendar Law legislation, the start and end dates for public schools were established by local boards of education, leading to a hodgepodge of calendars and, over time, earlier and earlier start dates. Recognizing there were consequences of this inconsistency, North Carolina REALTORS® along with a coalition led by a group of parents, successfully passed the 2004 School Calendar Law. The passage of the legislation meant that most schools were prohibited from starting earlier than August 25th and must end no later than June 10th.
Why does NCVRMA Support the School Calendar Law?
NCVRMA members invest in or manage vacation rental properties across the state. The health of that real estate sector depends on a successful summer vacation system. With schools shortening the summer period for students, tourism dependent communities were suffering. In turn, so were property owners and property managers who serve those communities with vacation rentals.
In addition, the travel and tourism industry is critical to North Carolina’s economy. It creates billions in employee income and contributes billions in state and local taxes. From the mountains to the sea, this industry has always been important to North Carolina and one of its largest industries. Enacting the School Calendar Law has led the way for economic gains, as well as greater opportunities for family vacations, participation in camps, non-school education, and summer employment.
While no one can argue that economic gains are a high priority now, summer employment is also another significant reason that NCVRMA and NCR continues to ensure this law remains in place. The pandemic has led to a shortage of workers so having the pool of school-aged workers to fill the gaps, especially in popular tourist areas, will help struggling businesses continue to recover post-pandemic.
Why is there Opposition to the School Calendar Law?
The most common arguments against the existing law are that this type of decision making is best made at the local level; it puts traditional schools out of sync with high schools located on college campuses; and that high school students have to take first-semester exams after winter break. To the first, the tourism industry is dependent on a consistent season. This means local decisions in non-tourist areas greatly affect the industry in other areas. Second, community colleges could choose to start later in the year to align with high schools but they choose not to do so. Finally, the calendar is still set by the local school board and they can work with the required days to ensure that first semester tests are given prior to the winter break. However, this means they have to be flexible with other calendar requirements and choose not to do so.
Have there been any Changes to the School Calendar Law since 2004?
Yes, there have been changes to the law since 2004 but none that significantly impacted the original intent of the legislation. North Carolina REALTORS® and coalition members have also worked closely with local school administrators to keep the law workable with education requirements. Ultimately, the School Calendar Law tries to balance the needs of schools with the needs of families and our communities.
Last year we successfully secured a permanent change to the definition of the year-round school calendar to prevent schools from skirting the school calendar law enacted in 2004. This session, we continue to work with coalition members to maintain North Carolina’s existing school calendar laws. While some bills have successfully passed the House this session, they still need to successfully pass the Senate. The Senate has historically strongly supported maintaining the current School Calendar Law. Our advocacy team is actively engaged with key Senate members, and coalition members to prevent schools from passing legislation this session.