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Tom Feran
By Tom Feran February 9, 2012

Could Ohio schools really cut five weeks of classes under a Statehouse proposal?

Imagine if Ohio's lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer lasted longer.

Now imagine that a vote of the General Assembly could make it happen.

That, in a sense, is the idea behind House Bill 191 -- at least for Ohio schools.

The legislation would delay the start of the school year until Labor Day and end it before Memorial Day.

It also would change the formula for figuring a minimum school year. Now districts are required to schedule 182 days. The legislation would change that to require schools be in session 910 hours, for kindergarten through grade 6, and 1,001 hours for grades 7 through 12.

Rep. Bill Patmon, a Cleveland Democrat,  co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Bill Hayes, a Republican from Licking County, east of Columbus.

Hayes told The Columbus Dispatch the primary intent of a longer summer break was to help tourism and recreation, the state's third-largest industry -- "and also generate revenue for the state, part of which gets passed down to the school."

Representatives of the Ohio School Boards Association, the Ohio Association of School Business Officials and a local school district testified against HB 191 before the House Education Committee on Feb. 1.

Marc Schare of the Worthington Board of Education, which passed a resolution asking the General Assembly and Gov. Kasich to reject the bill, said it would "cause a significant reduction to the quality of education" in Ohio.

He said that would allow Worthington schools to reduce the number of days to 151 from the current 178.

"You are essentially allowing us to shave five full weeks off the school year," Schare said.

PolitiFact Ohio feared for the integrity of the space-time continuum. We wondered how starting classes after Labor Day would trim the school year more than a month -- especially after Hayes claimed the bill could lengthen the year  in "many districts."

We called Schare. He explained his reasoning and pointed us to the more detailed testimony posted on his website.

First, he noted, HB 191 converts the minimum school year from days to hours using a 5.5 hours for a standard secondary-school day, excluding lunch. That works out to a minimum school year of 979 hours, or 178 days. (The minimum year of 182 days -- or 1,001 hours at 5.5 hours per day -- includes days when classes aren't in session because of parent-teacher conferences or professional programs.)

In his district of Worthington, Schare said, the school day at the secondary level is 6.5 hours. A chart from The Columbus Dispatch that he posted online with his testimony shows that most of the districts in Central Ohio have similar school days.

"This means that in a typical year, under this legislation, we would be in school 178 hours above the minimum, which works out to around 27 days," he said. "In other words, this legislation is giving Worthington carte blanche to reduce the number of days in our school district calendar from 178 to 151 days.

"Running the calculation another way for clarity, if we take the minimum number of hours -- 979 -- and divide it by our school day length of 6.5, we get 150 and change.

"You are," he concluded, "essentially permitting us to shave 5 full weeks off the school year."

Schare said his larger concern is that districts would start dropping days off the school year. "Virtually every district is at the  minimum days now," he told the committee. "Eventually they would get there (to a new, shorter minimum) through collective bargaining or because of financial constraints."

He pointed to the experience of Michigan, which in 2003 replaced a 180-day minimum school year with a 1,098-hour requirement. Even though that level is nearly 10 percent higher than the one in HB 191, 98 percent of Michigan's districts shortened the school year within three years.

To stop the erosion, Michigan's legislature last year set a new minimum -- of just 165 days.

We won’t speculate whether that would indeed happen in Ohio. HB 191 has not yet even cleared the Ohio House, let alone win Senate passage and the governor’s signature. And knowing how schools would then react would require the ability to predict the future.

As for Schare's claim about what the bill would allow, his calculations check out. While the numbers he used apply specifically to his Worthington district,  he shows in his posted testimony that most districts in central Ohio would feel similar results.

Regardless, in the statement we're checking, Schare said only that HB 191 would permit the 5-week shorter year, not require it.

On the Truth-O-Meter, Schare's statement rates True.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

Associated Press via, "Bill would start Ohio schools after Labor Day," Feb. 2, 2012

The Columbus Dispatch, "Bill to delay school start until after Labor Day draws educators’ objections," Feb. 2, 2012

Ohio Public Media, "One More Reason for Students to Get More Summer: It's Called HB 191," Dec. 12, 2011

Ohio 129th General Assembly, HB 191

Ohio 129th General Assembly, Revised HB 191

Ohio Revised Code, Sec. 3313.48, minimum school year

Phone interviews with Marc Schare, Feb. 7 and 8, 2012

Marc Schare, Notes for House Education Committee, Feb. 1, 2012

Ohio Legislative Service Commission, Comparative Analysis Sub HB 191

The Center for Michigan, "Michigan’s Incredible Shrinking School Year," March 12, 2009

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