Go ahead and schedule your Labor Day vacation. A Minnesota House committee killed a bill late this morning that would’ve allowed schools to start classes before Labor Day.
It’s not often that a one-sentence bill at the Legislature can get Minnesota worked up, but HF195, which went before the House Finance Committee today, is one such occasion.
Notwithstanding Minnesota Statutes, section 120A.40, a school district may begin the school year on any day before Labor Day only for the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years.
Labor Day comes late this year (September 7), and some educators say that’s too late. Graduations would be held in mid-June, proponents say. Besides, the kids in the band and football teams are already practicing by mid-August, according to Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, who is sponsoring the bill and is also a substitute teacher.
But the underlying issue is the economy, specifically the resort industry. If kids are back in school before Labor Day, they and their parents can’t be spending the week at a campground or resort. And young summer employees can’t be working if they’re in school.
“They’ll have about a 45 percent decline in booking,” Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said today. He said in 2004, the State Fair lost thousands of visitors because of an early school start date. He predicts the fair could lose up to $2.5 million in revenue if the bill becomes law.
“Labor Day is the largest vacation week in the state of Minnesota,” he said. “It’s not just the resorts, the airline industry loses bookings when school starts before Labor Day.”
But Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, says the economic argument is a shallow one. “It’s a question of whether they’re going to spend it at the end of the sumer, or at the beginning of the summer,” he said.
“Rep. Norton picked the worst two years to try this,” said Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia. “It’s the worst years since the Depression. If you stop them from spending on Labor Day weekend, it’s going to hurt those resorters. We don’t need to put another nail in the coffin for rural Minnesota.”
The not-until-Labor-Day policy of Minnesota schools — Michigan and Virginia are the only two other states with the policy, according to Rep. Norton — extends back to the state’s agrarian history. The kids needed to help out on the farm.