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School start compromise proposed

Published (3/2/2012)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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With Minnesota’s short summer, there’s a continual debate over school start dates — school officials want local control over school calendars, while resort owners and the agricultural sector say starting school before Labor Day would impact their businesses.

Rep. Connie Doepke (R-Orono) hopes her bill, HF2325, is a compromise.

The Flexible Learning Year bill would allow school districts to begin school before Labor Day, but would prohibit school from being held on the Thursday and Friday before Labor Day.

“It is all about giving locally elected school boards the ability to adopt a school calendar that best meets the needs of their community, while recognizing the need for an extended holiday at the end of the summer,” Doepke told the House Education Reform Committee Feb. 28. The committee approved the bill and moved it to the House floor.

Two unlikely allies have joined in their support of the bill — Education Minnesota, which represents most of the state’s teachers, and the Minnesota Business Partnership.

However, resort owners have been successful in keeping Minnesota as one of five states that don’t start before Labor Day.

“We’ve been at this issue for a long, long time. We’ve tried compromise; we’ve been through four governors, four presidents and here we go again,” said Joel Carlson, who represents the Congress of Minnesota Resort Owners.

He said the argument that pre-Labor Day starts improve school performance and test scores has not be proven.

Among DFLers supporting the bill is Rep. Kim Norton (DFL-Rochester), who sponsored a similar measure in the past. “I’m a little surprised that you don’t think that the summer gap can make a difference. I think there is plenty of data that it can impact student scores. I hope we continue to do what is best for the students.”

Rep. Mark Murdock (R-Ottertail) lives and owns a business in “Lake Country.” He can’t support the bill, he said, because of how it would negatively impact the Main Street businesses in his area.

The companion, SF1892, sponsored by Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), awaits action by the Senate Education Committee.

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