Should Arizona schools start later? It comes at a cost

Jul 20, 2023, 4:25 AM

Tom Horne...

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne. (Tome Horne for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Facebook page)

(Tome Horne for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Facebook page)

PHOENIX — School is back in session in some Valley districts and with the record-breaking heatwave in the Phoenix metro area, a question looms: Should Arizona schools start later?

Tom Horne, Arizona superintendent of public instruction, spoke with KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad Wednesday on whether schools should start up in September.

“Well, it’s nothing I can take on because a matter for local control and actually most school districts have committees of parents and teachers that devise the calendar, but in the old days school never started this early,” Horne said. “I think it’s as air conditioning became universal that they started starting school earlier.”

Horne said he was surprised when the calendar year was in July and August because school used to start later in the year.

“In the old days when all the schools didn’t have air conditioning, it didn’t start till the fall,” he said.

The superintendent said it would be better for the school year to start later to avoid the heat but he mentioned the longer the summer session, the more students forget what they’ve learned.

The “faucet theory” is an explanation of why lower-income students might learn less over the summer compared to high-income students. The “resource faucet” is on for all students during the school year but during the summer, the flow of resources slows from disadvantaged backgrounds but not for students with advantaged backgrounds. Higher-income students tend to continue to have access to financial and human capital resources over the summer, thereby facilitating learning, according to a report from the Brookings Institution.

“If you measure from say September to June and you measure schools in poor areas do just as well as schools in rich areas at the amount that their kids learn,” Horne said.

He explained a shorter summer recess and spreading times off throughout the year is probably better for the kids.

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Should Arizona schools start later? It comes at a cost