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Labor Day school start could change

Published (3/7/2008)
By Thomas Hammell
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Classes in reading, writing and arithmetic could begin before Labor Day, in some years.

HF3262, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Brynaert (DFL-Mankato), would allow school districts more flexibility in years when Labor Day falls later in September, specifically 2009 and 2010. The bill was approved Feb. 29 by the House E-12 Education Committee and sent to the House Higher Education and Work Force Development Policy and Finance Division.

State statute prohibits pre-Labor Day starts unless a specified exemption exists. The bill would allow public schools to begin classes Aug. 31, 2009, and Aug. 30, 2010, because Labor Day is Sept 7 and Sept. 6 respectively, the two latest dates it can fall on the calendar. It is Sept. 1 this year.

Brynaert said the proposal is a modest one, with the interests of the state’s tourism industry taken into account. Resort owners have said the earlier school start-dates cut into their business.

“I’m not immune to the education issue,” said Joel Carlson, a lobbyist for the Congress of Minnesota Resorts. He said there is no evidence that the later start date would negatively impact students.

“The general, essential issue is local control,” Brynaert said.

Kirk Schneidawind, associate director of governmental relations for the Minnesota School Boards Association, said the organization views this as a compromise.

He said students are already participating in sports programs before the school year starts, and the legislation would not prevent districts from starting after Labor Day.

Rep. Carlos Mariani (DFL-St. Paul), the committee chairman, said he is concerned with the amount of time students have accessible to them, saying the school year schedule is tied to a society that no longer exists.

A companion bill, SF2835, sponsored by Sen. Ann Lynch (DFL-Rochester), awaits action by the Senate Education Committee.

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