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Bill pushing for longer summer break in Alabama sparks backlash

FILE - A boy jumps into a pool. (Pixabay via MGN)

BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WPMI) - Need time to plan an extra vacation this summer before sending the kids back to school?

A bill going through committee in Montgomery would require that schools across the state start their school years no sooner than two weeks before Labor Day, therefore extending summer vacations. But it is getting backlash from some school leaders.

The two lawmakers sponsoring the bill say the longer the summer, the more tourism dollars the state can collect from our beaches.

But the problem is, local school systems, including Mobile County, already have their 2018-2019 calendars in place.

At Matt's Homemade Ice Cream in Gulf Shores, summer crowds bring big business.

"The longer we can have school out, the better for us," said manager Cindy Thigpen.

Not only do more people stop by for a cool treat, but extended summers mean high school employees are available for work longer.

"A lot of the college students, they do go back and we get very short-handed," said Thigpen.

If HB396 becomes law, schools will start no earlier than two Mondays before Labor Day. For this year, the earliest start date would be Aug. 20.

Daphne lawmaker Rep. Randy Davis is a cosponsor of the bill

"There's a significant amount of money lost when schools start earlier than two weeks before Labor Day. Four cents of every dollar funds the education trust fund and the lodging tax, 75 percent of lodging tax goes back to the state," said Davis.

In Baldwin County, tourism is booming during the summer months.

Here, schools are set to reopen Aug. 15. That's five days earlier than the proposed bill would allow. And teachers voted on that date.

"I like local control as much as possible, but of course we appreciate state money," said Baldwin County School Board President Cecil Christenberry.

The bill also reduces the number of instructional hours required in classrooms, something many school officials don't feel comfortable with.

"We really don't need to give up instructional hours; we need every instructional minute in my opinion," said Christenberry.

The state superintendent along with Baldwin County's superintendent are against reducing instructional time below 180 days.

Also keep in mind that here in Mobile County, school is set to start Aug. 6, two weeks before that Aug. 20 date.

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