Iowa Panel Seeks to Delay School Starts
Elementary and secondary schools in Iowa couldn't begin classes earlier than late August under legislation approved Monday (March 2) by a committee and sent to the full Iowa House for debate, according to the Associated Press.
Backers said they wanted to ensure families had time for traditional summer activities and that the state's tourism industry was protected.
"It's long overdue," said Rep. Mike May, R-Spirit Lake. "This is a family bill. They are simply frustrated and asking what happened to our summer." The House Education Committee approved the measure on a 16-7 vote that didn't split along party lines.
Opponents said individual school districts should be free to select the date when they want to begin classes.
Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, said schools in her home town coordinate their calendars with the University of Iowa, and other school districts should be free to decide when it makes sense to start.
"There's no research that indicates a common start date improves student performance," said Mascher. "I don't like being dictated to. Local districts can set that time."
Under current law, most schools seek and are granted waivers to begin classes earlier than the Sept. 1 cutoff date.
The new measure would make the fourth Monday in August the earliest start date and eliminate the ability to obtain a waiver.
Legislators acknowledged that tourism was key to the school start debate. By helping the tourism industry, supporters said the measure would help Iowa's economy.
May noted that Minnesota and Wisconsin have relatively late school starting dates.
"They respect that tourism industry," he said.
Backers also said delaying the start of school would save on air conditioning bills and avoid having to send children home because of scorching hot heat.
"If you start later, kids do better," said May, a retired teacher who also owns a resort in the Spirit Lake area.