Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Labor Day Bill Moves Ahead in the House. HF 195, the bill authored by Representative Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester) that would allow schools to start before Labor Day in each of the next two years, advanced through the House K-12 Funding Division today and was re-referred to the House Finance Committee. The vote on the bill was 11-5.

As was the case when the bill was before the House K-12 Policy Committee, testimony was divided. A number of school officials, including Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Superintendent John Currie, testified in favor of the bill, while representatives of the resort industry and the Minnesota State Fair testified against the bill. There were two other provisions in the original bill, the principle one calling for a study of the economic effects of an earlier school start, in the bill, but they were removed on a voice vote, leaving in place solely the pre-Labor Day start for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years.

Given the economic downturn and the fact that this will be squeezing the resort industry even harder, it is likely that they will fight this bill to the bitter end. Seeing this is only a two-year exemption, it seems like HF 195 strikes a reasonable balance between the needs of school districts and the likely end of the vacation season. With Labor Day falling as late as it is, I wonder how many families would be heading up North (or sticking around town to attend the State Fair on a weekday) in any event. I could easily be wrong on this, but again, the pre-Labor Day prohibition is only eliminated for the next two years and not in perpetuity.

This bill will be traveling on its own in the hopes that a final decision can be made early in the legislative session to give school districts the opportunity to set their calendars well in advance of the end of the 2008-2009 school year. I will keep you posted, not only on the progress of the bill in the House, but also on what is happening with the bill in the Senate.

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