Editorial: Leave school schedule to the educators

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 21, 2005

From the federal No Child Left Behind Act to Minnesota’s frozen funding formulas, school districts statewide have plenty of top-down mandates they have to accept no matter what. They don’t need any more, especially when it comes to something as simple as when to start a school year. Every district should be allowed to set its own start date.

Unfortunately, for the third straight year, the Minnesota Legislature is pondering whether to again change state law and require districts to wait until after Labor Day to start classes.

Current law requires schools to start no sooner than Sept. 1. Up until 2000, the law mandated a post-Labor Day start.

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Frankly, though, both these concepts are misguided because they are rooted largely in helping business &045; particularly the tourism industry &045; and not in doing what’s best for each school district.

We encourage legislators to acknowledge that by adopting legislation that does the opposite of this year’s proposal by Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, and Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker. Allow districts the flexibility to pick their own start dates.

All you have to do is look at the cities of residence for Ruud and Howes and you understand why they are advocating a post-Labor Day start. Tourism is arguably the driving force in their respective districts. Breezy Point is in the heart of the Brainerd Lakes area, one of the state’s leading resort destinations. And Walker is by Leech Lake, one of the top fishing destinations.

Requiring schools to start after Labor Day essentially extends the resort season into September, which obviously means more business for their constituents. While we don’t begrudge them wanting to help their local economies, the question must be asked: Is that really in the best educational interests of students statewide?


The same can be said of those who want school to start after the Minnesota State Fair. Sure, the fair is a statewide event. But so are the fishing opener or deer hunting, and you don’t see legislation demanding school be planned around them.

In fact, has anyone ever thought about how the fair would fare if school did start in mid-August? Perhaps the fair and its themes could be incorporated into classroom instruction, complete with the obligatory field trip.

Of course, such a decision should be left to educators. Not only are they trained to know what’s best for students and learning, they probably know their community much better than state legislators. So trust their judgment. Let them pick the start date. After all, between test scores, graduation standards and funding, the state and federal governments already have enough control of local public schools.

&045; St. Cloud Times