- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Some South Carolina school systems are asking lawmakers to let them start school a week earlier in August so they can end their first semester before Christmas.

The bill went before a Senate subcommittee Thursday, resurrecting a fight 10 years ago when South Carolina passed the current law preventing schools from starting before the third Monday in August.

Tourism groups pushed hard for the later start dates so families would have more prime beach weather in August to vacation and teen workers could stay in their seasonal jobs longer.

The subcommittee approved the bill Thursday with an amendment setting the earliest start date at Aug. 15, later than the second Monday in August being pushed by some school systems.

Subcommittee chairman Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, said he wanted to advance the bill and promised more discussion in the full Education Committee.

Starting earlier in August will allow schools to get the full 90 days for the first semester in before Christmas break, supporters said.

“I would like to know as a parent my child is not spending the entire Christmas break studying for the tests that come after,” said Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston.

Opposition to the bill again came from the coast. Republican Sen. Luke Rankin from Myrtle Beach said families have told him they appreciate having more of August for vacations instead of seeing school end in May.

Rankin threatened to block the bill if the second Monday in August date was approved.

Other critics of the bill pointed out the current law allows school districts to start on Aug. 15 this year, and few if any of them decided to do so.

Superintendents and other school leaders really want to be able to evenly split semesters at 90 days at the Christmas break, South Carolina Association of School Administrators Executive Director, Beth Phibbs told senators.

“If you start early, you are getting out early,” Phibbs said. “You only go to school 180 days.”

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jeffrey-collins

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