Maintain post-Labor Day school start in MinnesotaTERRY MATTSON: There is strong evidence that a post-Labor Day school start benefits many aspects of our state.
By: Terry Mattson, for the Budgeteer
Like the swallows of San Juan Capistrano that return each March to the famous mission in California, legislation to change Minnesota law requiring schools to start after Labor Day is once again being debated at the St. Paul Capitol.
There is strong evidence that a post-Labor Day school start benefits many aspects of our state. Nearly every school district across Minnesota is blessed with tourism business, yet some school boards say they cannot work within the current calendar. The tourism and hospitality industry is a strong supporter of a quality education system and sees itself as a partner with education. It also believes that the post-Labor Day school start and positive educational outcomes are fully compatible.
It’s clear that the post-Labor Day start benefits our state, the hospitality industry, the Minnesota State Fair and related fairs, farming, canning, landscaping and the broader retail industry, to name a few. Now is certainly not the time to jeopardize jobs. What’s more, it’s clear that school boards and superintendents can schedule the necessary number of days of class time between Labor Day and early June. Tourism interests across the state including Duluth strongly oppose legislation that would repeal the current law.
Recent bills introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate would allow local school boards across the state to select any school start date. The only restriction would be that schools could not be open on the Thursday and Friday before Labor Day weekend.
Granted, the current school calendar is based on agrarian seasons. However, because we have had predictable school calendars for a very long time, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in our hotels, attractions, restaurants, campgrounds and amenities that absolutely depend on the summer season for success and, in many cases, for survival. Tourism is among the largest industries in Minnesota, contributing over $11 billion to the economy each year. Approximately 17 percent of sales tax statewide is collected by tourism. The prime season is only 10 weeks long —from mid-June to late August. If school starts in mid-August, the season shrinks to eight weeks — a 20 percent decline in the time most derive much of their income and profits.
Also, many hotels, resorts, restaurants and campgrounds rely on students as a big part of their labor force. Fewer weeks of work means less money for college savings. Current law is a reasonable compromise. As more states move to post-Labor starts, why change what benefits
Minnesotans in dramatic fashion?
Starting schools early in August, the hottest month of the year, unnecessarily costs districts higher utility bills compared to a start-date after Labor Day. Decreased August tourism activity is not offset by increases in other summer months.
The hospitality industry is a fully vested supporter of a strong educational system. There is no evidence that starting school before Labor Day improves education. The legislature should focus its attention on proposals that will improve our children's education and stay away from proposals that jeopardize jobs.
Some say they can't work within the current law, but let’s take a closer look. From Labor Day to the second week of June there are 41 weeks or 287 days. If you take out weekend days (82), you are left with 205 weekdays to work with, minus the 184 days averaged by schools statewide. This leaves 21 extra days, or four full school weeks, of days off.
The bottom line is many statewide industries benefit from business and employees available as a result of current law. If it is deemed necessary to increase the amount of time a student is in school, we suggest lengthening the number of school hours (many students get out around 2 p.m.) and revising some of the break periods throughout the year. This would give school districts plenty of added time to set their calendars without affecting the quality of education. Many school districts have long honored the tradition of the post-Labor Day start and easily structure their calendars to meet state law.
Duluth, Northeastern Minnesota, and the entire state including the Twin Cities, benefit from the current law. Labor Day is one of the last family weekends of the year in terms of travel. Let's keep it that way.
Terry Mattson is the president and CEO of Visit Duluth, the city’s convention and visitors bureau, and is responsible for leading the official destination marketing efforts. Contact Mattson by telephone at 722-4011 or by e-mail at email@example.com.