Columbia County School Board members on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to the 2010-11 calendar that once again has students attending school on Veterans Day.
There are occasional complaints each year from those who believe Veterans Day should be a school holiday. But school officials successfully make the case that holding patriotic programs in schools that day is far more educationally valuable than an unstructured day off.
Some state officials, however, want to take that decision out of local hands.
As he did last year, Georgia House Majority Leader Jerry Keen has filed a bill to require Georgia public schools to be closed on Veterans Day.
A similar bill failed 10 years ago, and last year Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle never let it come to a vote in the Senate. It's probably too much to wish a similar fate for the bill this year. But it should not pass.
Two issues are at stake here. First is local control. Local school systems are fully capable of deciding their own calendars, and state politicians have no business imposing their views on such decisions.
Second, however, is the observation of Veterans Day itself.
Keen, from St. Simons Island, is living on Fantasy Island if he thinks giving students a day off will help them to celebrate Veterans Day. To the contrary: Giving students a holiday is an ironclad guarantee that most of them will be engaged in no activities whatsoever related to such an observance.
In contrast, Columbia County's schools work diligently each year to put together meaningful programs to observe Veterans Day.
For example, this past year Lakeside Middle School students observed Veterans Day with an assembly that included comments from Fort Gordon's commanding general. Evans Elementary pupils held a patriotic parade and spent time with guests from the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home. And Bel Air Elementary pupils had breakfast with veterans and active-duty service members, while collecting donations for Fort Gordon's Fisher House.
With a state-mandated day off, most of those students undoubtedly would have spent the day just like any other holiday - in activities that have nothing to do with honoring veterans.
Supporters of Keen's bill, including most veterans organizations in the state, have their hearts in the right place. But they need to keep their noses out of school calendars.
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