Some Washington school districts exploring school calendar reforms

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November 5, 2021

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

I was pleased to learn this week that several Washington school districts are looking into whether taking shorter breaks throughout the year – and trimming the traditional summer break – will help prevent annual learning loss and the need for fall reteaching. This KING-TV story reports that, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 18 school districts and one charter school are using grant funding to explore shortening the traditional summer break to allow for what’s known as a balanced school calendar.

As you may recall from previous communications, I believe we need to think big about reforming the system and to get serious about exploring better opportunities for student learning. A more “balanced” school calendar that avoids that big, long break in the summer could really help students. I certainly support a summer break for kids and families, but I think the typical break that school districts take is too long and outdated.

Sen. Hawkins speaks in committee mtg

As the ranking Republican member on the Senate’s Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee, I work closely on statewide education issues. Prior to being elected to the Legislature, I served for nearly 10 years on the North Central Educational Service District and Eastmont School boards.

Reviewing my Senate Bill 5147

During the 2021 legislative session, I prime-sponsored a bipartisan bill to encourage school districts to explore school calendar reforms. My legislation, Senate Bill 5147, included funding pilot projects for districts to apportion their 180 state-funded school days differently, including shortening their summer break to no more than six weeks. The school-calendar reform bill was amended and passed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee but was not approved by the full Senate earlier this year. SB 5147 could either advance through the Legislature during the upcoming 2022 session or continue to gain attention within the education community to encourage districts to explore modernizations on their own.

The fact that so many school districts across Washington are now showing interest in reforming their school calendars is a sign that prior efforts to encourage districts to “think differently” are working. Sometimes change takes place incrementally over time, but this latest development is encouraging. Regardless if my individual bill passes, I plan to continue to emphasize how updates to the traditional school calendar can be beneficial for students and taxpayers.

Average per student education funding chart

The Washington Legislature spends half of its $59 billion operating budget on K-12 education. Taxpayers contribute additional funds through local voter levies. With so many taxpayer dollars invested into education ($14,639 on average per student), we deserve an efficient system where schools aren’t reteaching each fall.

The state funds 180 school days. School districts have flexibility on how to apportion those days over a calendar year. Now seems like the right time for districts to partner with their staff and community to explore a more balanced school calendar, one with perhaps a six-week summer break to avoid learning loss.

Media articles on school calendar reform

These links provide more information about my school-calendar proposal:

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your state senator.



Brad Hawkins

State Senator Brad Hawkins
12th Legislative District


107 Newhouse Building - P.O. Box 40412 | Olympia, WA 98504-0412
(360) 786-7622 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000