RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Some schools will welcome kids back to class next week in defiance of a state law that says school shouldn’t start until later in the month.
More than a dozen school districts will begin earlier than the official start date of Aug. 28, as state lawmakers remain at odds about how to address the situation.
It’s become an annual issue as House lawmakers pass bills aimed at giving school districts more flexibility and the Senate refuses to take them up.
“I think the local systems that are ignoring state law are setting a really bad example for students,” said Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham).
In 2004, the legislature approved the current calendar law as some in the tourism industry sought consistency across the state as to when summer break would occur.
House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) voted against the bill at the time.
He says it makes sense for K-12 schools to begin earlier so that they align with community colleges. Some high school students take courses at those colleges. In addition, it allows students to take exams before winter break instead of returning to take them in January.
Both Cleveland and Rutherford counties, which Moore represents, will begin the school year earlier than the law allows.
While school districts that defy the law do not face punishments from the state, they can be sued. That happened earlier this year in Union County after the school board voted to start early. The board reversed that decision after the lawsuit was filed.
Other school districts continue to operate outside the bounds of the law.
“No, that’s not a good solution. I think the responsible thing would be for us to pass something that makes clear that counties have more flexibility,” said Moore. “I think eventually there will be a resolution. I don’t know when that will be.”
The state grants waivers to some school districts to start earlier, including those in the mountains that are likely to have more snow days.
“I think the calendar law as is, is a good provision for the state. I think it’s workable for the school systems,” said Sen. Berger. “If there is some sort of compromise, I’m not aware of what it would be.”
Speaker Moore said, “It’s just one of those issues that will continue to work forward. I guess it’s one more example of job security for legislators: issues that remain unresolved.”