Gov. John deJongh Jr. has called a special session of the Legislature for Friday to repeal two laws pertaining to the school year calendar, according to Government House. DeJongh called the session on Tuesday in a letter to Senate President Shawn-Michael Malone accompanied by proposed legislation.
One of the two laws [Act 7369], approved in 2012 over deJongh’s veto, moves up the beginning of the school year by two weeks so that classes and exams end before Christmas and the Crucian Christmas Carnival. The other [Act 7484] simply delays the original deadline for compliance to the 2014-15 school year.
Teachers unions and the Education Department want to delay or prevent the change because of concerns about teachers working two more weeks one year and about the initial cost and logistics of the change in the midst of a budget crisis.
“The Department of Education has attempted to develop a school calendar that aligns with the dates mandated in the revised law and has the draft document ready for final approval in April of this year,” deJongh said in his letter to the Legislature. “However, the department has encountered a number of issues, making its implementation impractical, especially for the next school year.”
Before deJongh called for a special session, he and Sen. Alicia “Chucky” Hansen were in discussions about the importance of taking whatever steps were necessary to implement a revised school calendar, according to Government House.
DeJongh said he was “keenly aware” of the challenges being faced by the Department of Education, specifically in regards to funding, and warned of such challenges when he vetoed the original legislation.
Hansen said she was prepared to introduce legislation to repeal the two acts, but both she and deJongh feared it would take a long time for the legislation to be vetted through the committee process, according to deJongh. For that reason, deJongh said he opted to fast-track the legislation by calling the special session, a move Hansen requested and supports.
Among the problems with implementing the new calendar now, Government House argues, is that it will hurt efforts to implement Common Core States Standards. Implementing these requires considerable professional development to ensure the instructional shifts necessary to move students from where they are to where they ought to be to meet the standards, according to Government House.
The Education Department plans to implement the new assessment standards in 2015, which is aligned to the CCSS, and “a school calendar based on the current form of the statute ignores the required professional days needed to accomplish this goal,” deJongh said in his statement. “Therefore, professionals must be paid to attend professional development sessions during nonteaching hours if we are to achieve compliance with the CCSS.”
Another reason for repealing the change is that, while looking at the change to the school calendar, both the Administrators’ Association and the American Federation of Teachers have demanded payment for this school year prior to the start of the new school year, so that they do not begin a new school year being owed for the last school year, according to Government House. The request for upfront payment is based on the fact the school based personnel in both unions are 10-month employees whose salaries are prorated over 12 months, enabling them to receive uninterrupted compensation during the summer vacation.
Citing these reasons and several others, deJongh asked the senators to repeal the two acts when they meet in session Friday.