The Labor Day standard

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.

  • Tonya

    FYI – I think Wisconsin has adopted the same no school before Labor Day policy recently, pushed through by lobbyists (?) from the Wisconsin Dells tourism (waterparks, hotels, go-kart tracks) industry.

  • LJ

    not that this holds any weight to most people, but starting school before labor day TOTALLY screws up 4-H at the state fair. most kids can’t bring their projects to the fair because of school, thus missing out on many great experiences and opportunities. 4-H has tried to work with that scenario when it happened in 2004 and it just did not work well at all.

  • Jim Christianson

    School boards should be able to decide this issue.

  • Scott

    The lawmakers are trying their best to keep the students away from school. Who cares about education here? Fun and only fun is the number one priority. When we are going to learn from our lesson?

  • LJ

    Schools should be held year round. How many kids live on family farms anymore, and actively work on them?

  • bsimon

    I’m a huge fan of making sure our kids get a quality education, but I question the assumption/contention that we’d be best served by year-round schooling. I certainly learned a lot outside of school. Yes there was a lot of screwing around, but there was also a lot of good experience gained from summer jobs, for instance.

  • Cweihe

    Many reasons for starting earlier:

    The later we start school, the later we end school. Most schools DO NOT have AC, have multiple stories, and windows that face south. It becomes unbearable in many class rooms. Students can not concentrate, they misbehave, It’s very difficult. Later start will get students out of school around June 15 th or so. Lost resort revenue either way.

    What is more important? educating future income earners or entertainment dollars?

    School Districts should be allowed to choose thier own start date. How many elementary and Middle school kids WORK the state fair? How many children in outstate MN DO need to work the farm? City kids obviously do not.

  • George

    Legislators from rural districts who think this will hurt the resort industry better think twice. In the current economy the state should be doing everything possible to improve the performance of schools so that the future resort owners have an affluent pool of potential customers. This can only be achieved through education and improved productivity. Enable schools to be more effective, work first, play later.

  • Chris

    Given that kids will be spending the same amount of time in school either way, I fail to see what difference moving the date up a week would make. Kids don’t concentrate very well in the last week of school anyways.

  • Lee

    So every other state, except Michigan and Virginia, willingly takes an economic hit by starting schools before Labor Day?

    Remind me of this decision each time some politician presents the idea of extending the school year or doing anything else with the calendar that might enhance learning or provide for an improved school environment. Or when some politician talks about the “importance” of local control and decision-making.

    And assuming districts do not choose to shorten the school year or shift the missed days to mid-June, does this mean one less week in the winter for snowmobiling or skiing vacations?

  • John

    If this is the worst economy since the depression, which I believe it surely is or will be, high school students Johnny and Mary might be replaced at the resorts, resturants, etc., with competetion from Grandpa Fred and Grandma Kathy. Allow the school districts to set their own schedules.

  • Mark

    I don’t understand why the dates of the State Fair cannot be moved up as well. To have our educational system held up by the State Fair and possible family vacations is crazy.

  • Lisa

    When parents get long weekends, it’s a great time to pad that time with vacation days and get a good long vacation in with your family. This is a huge vacation time for campers and road trips. Why take that away when business owners and travelers depend on that? People travel outside of their school district. Err on the side of status quo for this issue.

  • Toni

    We own 2 vacation rental properties “Up North” and in the 4 Labor Days we’ve owned them we have not had one school aged child stay with us over Labor Day weekend. As a parent the last weekend before school starts is the time I’d least like to be on vacation with the kids. It’s hard enough getting them back into the routine of school.

  • Lisa

    Schools can start school after Labor Day and still finish the year by June 8th – it happens in our area and our kids get a quality education. Because of family commitments with graduations, activites, iffy weather, etc. the bulk of summer family vacations don’t start until mid-June at the earliest. Its more important for the tourism industry – one of MN’s largest industries – to extend the season through Labor Day than it is to finish near Memorial Day. Now is not the time to tinker with this policy in the midst of a down economy…