School Labor Day bill makes sense

/ 1 April 2012 / jennifer

Mankato Free Press Editorial, April 1, 2012 –

Proposed legislation that would allow school districts the choice to start school before Labor Day offers a practical compromise to those who don’t want to give up a last summer outing around Labor Day.

State Rep. Connie Doepke, R-Orono, introduced a bill that allows districts to start before Labor Day, but if they do, they could not hold class on the Thursday and Friday before the holiday. The arrangement would give families five days to take an end-of-summer vacation.

Minnesota is one of a handful of states that has a law that prohibits schools from starting classes before Labor Day. The law was meant to protect late-summer business for resorts as well as the State Fair.

That setup, however, is not ideal for many schools. Already more than 30 districts in the state, including Minneapolis and 25 districts in southwestern Minnesota, including Comfrey, Springfield and Sleepy Eye, have gone through the process to get a waiver from the requirement. With the amount of testing required in a school year, many districts want to get in a substantial number of instruction days before the tests. These students also will get out of school earlier, giving older students a jump start on summer jobs.

The big fear that starting school early would have a dire effect on the State Fair and resort industry doesn’t seem to be valid. Data from several years ago revealed the number of student 4H exhibitors attending the fair from the 25 southwest school districts that start in August was up. School officials there gave those attending the fair, as well as others on vacation, excused absences — just as they do for students who vacation during other times of the school year. Students receive assignments ahead of time and make up missing work.

All districts should be given the choice to start when it’s best for their students. And this legislation would offer such a choice and still allow students to attend the fair or visit resorts at the end of summer.