School start date will be later

No earlier than 14 days before Labor Day. The restrictions do not go into effect until the 2007-2008 school year.

Published May 4, 2006

Public schools can start their calendars no earlier than 14 days before Labor Day under a bill that has passed the Florida Legislature.

The restrictions do not go into effect until the 2007-2008 school year. In 2007 then, the earliest possible start date would be Aug. 20.

Around Tampa Bay, the start date for the school year has crept into early August in recent years. Some parents and educators blame it on the pressure to prepare for the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

"This is a victory for the school start advocates who felt that the current school start date is irrational," said Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, one of the original sponsors of the idea.

Republican Gov. Jeb Bush is pleased for the chance to address parents' concerns. He celebrated the passage of the delayed start date, tucked into a larger education package.

"I've given you a list of three things the FCAT has been accused of causing: early school start dates, acne and the common cold," Bush said. "This eliminates one of those."

But school districts don't want the state telling them what to do with local calendars. Originally, the House wanted to give local elected officials greater flexibility to move the start date up with a super-majority vote. The Senate passed the 14-day requirement on Thursday morning, and the House agreed to ensure the passage of the broad middle and high school reform package.