We have all done it. Watch the news and wait for that magic moment when the name of our school rolls across the bottom of the screen letting us know there is no school tomorrow. When bad weather makes it hazardous for students to travel to school, superintendents must make the decision whether or not to close school. On December 5, 2013, over 800 school superintendents made that decision.
Students jump for joy at the chance to stay home and sleep in. Teachers are grateful for the extra day to stay home and catch up on work. But school officials know that this is a difficult decision. In Texas, schools are required to submit their school calendar to the Commissioner of Education for approval annually. The State legislature mandates how many days of school are required to be on the calendar and how much to pay school for attendance on those days. Any variation can greatly impact the school's budget. Unlike traditional school districts, public charter schools are even more impacted as their funding is limited only to daily attendance.
Here is how it works: Schools are funded based on average daily attendance. Schools submit student attendance to the State every six weeks with a final submission during the summer. Throughout the school year the Texas Education Agency's PEIMS, (public education information management system), calculates and readjusts payments to the school. No worries, right? Students can make up the day missed and the school's budget is in tack. That is not what happens. Bad weather days are often scheduled near other holidays during the Spring when vacation's have been planned, or on Saturdays. Attendance is then unusually low and the school must plan and readjust the budget. This has become increasingly significant following years of harsh school budget cuts.
So when we watch the news during the next winter storm and wonder why those superintendents take so long to decide if school will close or worse, keep school open, the behind the scenes look at what a large responsibility this is for the school's administration makes this clearer. Not only the budget is stressed. The legislature has mandated so many required State exams, each day is critical to prepare students to pass the test and often the tests fall on those school closing days, disrupting the entire process.
Helpful Sites for More Information