Shorter School Breaks Could Spoil Summer for Families, Teachers, and Businesses

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Chris Davila hands out eggs as the children get ready to play games at The McNay Art Museum. Photo by Michael Cirlos.

Michael Cirlos for the Rivard Report

Chris Davila hands out eggs as the children get ready to play games at the McNay Art Museum in the summer of 2016.

We’ve made the turn into 2019 and already are eyeing spring on the calendar, which means the current school year is more than halfway completed. The summer is beckoning on the horizon, and it’s a fitting time for Texas’ 86th Legislature to consider how important that time is for students, teachers, and families.

That extended breather recharges bodies, minds, and even wallets. As the mother of two youngsters, I see summer breaks as many others do – an opportunity for parents and their children to relax, bond, and learn in an organic, experiential manner.

In many ways, the summer break provides a classroom every bit as important as the one that includes desks, books, and teachers. It means spending quality time exploring – whether it be the backyard or backwoods – and unleashing creativity, talents, and fun.

The importance of that time off has become more and more magnified as many schools statewide have considered and implemented expanded schedules that require students to be back onto campus earlier than ever before. In fact, many charter, private and public campuses now open up their doors for the school year by mid-August or earlier.

State legislation passed a dozen years ago mandated the official school start date each year be the fourth Monday of August, allowing for a longer uninterrupted break that protects the economic benefits of family travel and the bottom line of businesses counting on that tourism traffic and student workforce to accommodate it.

For many Texas businesses, every week that a school district mandates that students report early is a week of lost revenue – and that carries far-reaching implications. A shorter summer break reduces time for vacations, with less spending on accommodations, entertainment, dining, and other purchases. This is especially true in San Antonio, one of the top tourism destinations in the country, where the travel and hospitality industry generates $15.2 billion in economic impact annually.

According to The Perryman Group, the total economic losses from shifting school’s start date to one week earlier in August includes a projected $1 billion or more in Texas in aggregate spending and $543.2 million in gross product each year, as well as more than 7,500 jobs.

Perryman notes that if all districts started the school year just one week earlier, it would mean a $44 million per week negative impact in the San Antonio-New Braunfels corridor.

Indeed, the effect of an earlier start date has financial consequences, but there is so much more at stake. Students and even teachers can pursue additional income, families can spend invaluable time together, and learning can occur through unique experiences such as visits to museums and libraries, educational outdoors excursions, and even being a tourist in your own hometown.

There are other benefits. For many, working a summer job means learning the kind of interpersonal, interactive skills that can be of practical importance for future professions. For instance, getting attention off a phone or computer screen and instead focused on a customer means honing engagement skills that will pay lasting dividends.

Studies from several groups, including Psychology Today and the American Psychological Association, have shown that rest from vacation or other time off helps lessen irritability, depression, and anxiety. This is a boost for mental acuity and stamina in all areas. In this age of social media and white noise in every direction, flushing the mind of all that congestion means opening it to new ideas, creativity, and innovation.

Add it all up, and there’s little doubt that shortening the summer break equals losses for businesses, families, teachers, and students. More rooms filled in our hotels each year means more money added to the Hotel Occupancy Tax, a portion of which are directed to local schools. For example, in 2017 hospitality and tourism was responsible for $95.2 million in support for San Antonio-area school districts.

Legislators should consider that in securing the longer uninterrupted break for students, instructors, and families.

It doesn’t take an extra week in math class to figure out how important it is.

5 thoughts on “Shorter School Breaks Could Spoil Summer for Families, Teachers, and Businesses

  1. I’m not sure the author did her homework in writing this article. I am a high school teacher and there are a huge number of us at the high school level who would trade in some of those summer vacation days in order to get those days off during the school year. And it seems like every parent I know is ready to send kids back to school by the time August hits so parents don’t seem to worried about it. There’s only so much a parent can take before they need “me” time again.

    Also, regardless of when the school year starts, the school year in Texas is the same length, 180 days. So days lost in the summer by tourism can be regained in other parts of the year that are traditionally down times for tourism.

    Since the school year is 180 days, that also means that starting the school year a week earlier also means the school year ends a week earlier. My school district currently starts in late August but we’ve gone anywhere from a week to almost two weeks into June before the school year ends. My fiance works at a school district that starts a week or sometimes two weeks before me and she is always done with her school year in May. Wouldn’t our tourism industry love getting some people in late May instead of almost half way through June?

    This article is implying that starting school earlier means a shorter vacation and that is a straight out lie for some districts. For other school districts, it is shorter by 1 week (still ending in May in stead of June) and the other week is dispersed to coincide with National holidays that their parents will have off.

    The State of Texas is doing a horrible job of funding education. The state does not make education spending decisions based on hotel occupancy taxes. They make that decision based on how much districts take in with property taxes and then fill in the gap (not as simple as that but it makes the point) to hit a predetermined funding number. A windfall in state hotel occupancy tax does not mean a windfall for schools because once the state hits that predetermined funding number, the state keeps the rest. And not a single school district I have worked for, nor any media outlet reporting on education funding, has ever mentioned local hotel occupancy taxes going towards K-12 education. Neither the city nor county provides funding to local school districts.

  2. Perhaps the author was correlating the increase in hotel tax to the business being more valuable and therefore the property value goes up?

    My district almost runs all year. It seems there is not enough time in the summer just to fix stuff. All high schools run an extra 28 days for credit and attendance recovery. That did not exist in the 90’s.

    Special Education and ESL run an additional month as well as turning on schools for summer feeding tha City of San Antonio feeding programs.

    Schools do a lot more than they used to and the funding needs to be updated. The districts could also do a better job of controlling the costs they have like utilities.

  3. Schools and their schedules should not be managed for the overall benefit of the tourist industry. They should be managed for the best, most effective way to teach our children the skills they will need to be successful in life. The three month summer vacation was predicated on a time when we were a predominantly agrarian society. Kids needed the summer off to work on the farms planting and harvesting crops. In most parts of the country this is no longer a major necessity. Because of this the first few weeks of the school year are spent refreshing students on what they learned in the previous grade, but forgot about during those three months as ‘tourists’.

    As schools are designed to prepare our youth for the future in the workforce, why not get them used to working (going to school) year round like you do in real life. There are ways to work the school schedule so that there are longer breaks during the school year and less summer downtime. This allows breaks for the tourists and teachers, yet alleviates the three months where the students forget stuff.

    If we want to be the leader of the world, we need to start thinking outside the box with regard to how we educate our future. There are plenty of other countries who do this already. We should at least consider something new.

  4. This is probably the worst article I have read in the Rivard Report over the past several years.
    It would be interesting to know how many kids actually spend time with a stay-at-home parent compared to those with working parents enrolled in summer camps or other activities at a good cost. Chazz is right about the historical reason for the long summer break. Our son attended was enrolled in a year-round school in kindergarten and first grade in California because bond issues had failed and there were not enough schools built. In fact, two separate schools occupied the same building, which was somehow accommodated with the 45-15 system–9 weeks school and 3 weeks vacation. Benefits of the year-round school have been documented. Short breaks more frequent breaks are seen reported to improve student learning. We found winter breaks to be provide otherwise unavailable opportunities.

  5. I am not an educator. I am also not an expert on the intricacies of school financing and the myriad efforts to improve/overhaul the system. What I feel qualified to speak to is the joy my wife and I experienced during school breaks spent with our children. Whether that break came in the summer, in the spring, or in the winter, we used that time to create life memories…ones we hope will stay with our children long after we have departed. Are we as a society in such a rush to turn our kids into adults that we are willing to shorten the memory-making time?

    Is school the only place where children can learn the skills necessary for them to be caring, successful, productive members of their communities? In today’s hurry up, technology driven world, we’re raising kids with shorter attention spans, higher levels of stress, stunted social skills and mountains of debt.

    I say let kids be kids and give them an extra week each summer to do so. After all, we’re talking about a total of 12-16 weeks over the typical academic lifespan. As the years pass and adulthood approaches, many will fill those breaks with jobs so they can buy stuff, help out their families or save for college. Good for them and good for our community. And if there happens to be an economic benefit to our very important visitor industry, we should all be thankful that so many people see San Antonio as a place they want to visit.

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