Gov. Phil Bryant has done the right thing by signing into law a bill that allows local school districts to decide when to start their school year, even though he did it for the wrong reason.
The new law repeals one passed in 2012 that mandated local public schools could not open before the third Monday in August. Schools in northeast Mississippi – and here in New Albany and Union County – have usually started at least a week earlier than that.
The repeal was attached to a school bill that includes several other things, including allowing teachers to get their school purchasing card for supplies earlier, allowing students to take courses needed for graduation through college dual-enrollment programs, and allowing students in districts that lose accreditation for non-academic reasons to continue to participate in extracurricular activities.
Bryant hinted that he might have vetoed the school-start date change had it been sent to him separately by the legislature. That is unfortunate. Casino and beach hospitality interests wanted the later school start for their own private business interests, not because it furthered public education.
Returning school-start dates to local school districts was a grass roots movement of public education supporters. It was passed despite the opposition of the Republican leadership in both the House and Senate – and apparently the governor.
Fortunately, enough legislators put public education ahead of the casinos and hospitality interests to get the mandatory later start repealed.