Thanks to state Rep. Matt Dollar (R-east Cobb) for paying attention to the community he represents. His bill that would prevent early school start dates shows he sees that locally, some things are out of control. While education dollars are the tightest they have been in history, counties like Cobb, are approving early school start dates that waste precious tax dollars on higher cooling costs.
While research shows us the school calendar configuration does not impact academic performance, it does show a poorly configured school calendar can and does increase cooling costs and operational costs for school districts. Knowing school districts have a finite amount of taxpayer dollars to spend educating our children, deductive reasoning tells us when cooling costs and operational costs are decreased, more money will be available for teacher salaries and academic programming such as small group tutoring.
Most schools keep air conditioners or heating units on year round. It is unwise in most parts of the country to turn off such systems due to moisture and mold concerns. But as anyone who has hosted a party in their home knows, it takes much more energy to keep a room with 30 people cool than it does an empty or nearly empty room.
According to a Nov. 17, 2002, Tulsa World article, "Tulsa (Okla.) Public Schools saved nearly $500,000 by delaying the start of school until after Labor Day, the districts latest utility bills show." (The district previously had a school start date of Aug. 19.) Subsequent newspaper reports showed the later school start date had no impact on test scores. A district spokesperson said "state test scores stayed the same." He added that the school calendar didn't seem to make a difference academically.
The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts estimated in her September 2004 special report "Saving Summer: Lessons Learned" that August school days were costing the state's schools a cumulative $2.9 million a day in increased school utilities. She also estimated each extra vacation day a school district added to the calendar cost $15.5 million statewide.
Knowing the calendar configuration does not impact academic success, but does take valuable financial resources away from our students academic needs and our teachers, eliminating August school days just makes sense. Imagine the money Cobb and other Georgia counties would have to put into educating our children simply by starting school three weeks later.