Bill to get rid of Iowa’s mandatory school start date tabled

DES MOINES — A move to get rid of the state law that forbids schools from starting the fall term before August 23 has stalled in the Iowa House. The tourism industry objects, arguing families quit traveling and they lose student employees if school starts earlier in August.

“Every day that Okoboji loses from that summer season, it’s over a million dollars in hidden revenues that doesn’t come in,” said Craig Patterson, a lobbyist for Okoboji Tourism.

Representative Thomas Moore, a Republican, is a retired teacher and coach from Griswold.

“We don’t want to infringe on our business partners that are paying the taxes and making the money for the state government,” he said. “We also want that local school board to be able to make what the best decision for them is and so it’s a ‘Catch 22’ situation, I guess.”

Moore is chairman of the subcommittee that discussed getting rid of the mandatory school start date. He announced at the end of a hearing that the bill would not advance.

Margatet Buckton is a lobbyist for the Urban Education Network, representing 22 school districts where nearly one in every four students are enrolled. She said having less time away from school avoids learning loss.

“It’s important to work with communities and child care providers and staff and the local economy to figure out what is the best fit for all of these things and we trust our school boards to make those decisions in the best interests of their students and their taxpayers,” Buckton said, “so we’re in favor of this bill.”

In 2015, former Governor Terry Branstad criticized schools for starting before the State Fair was over and he signed a law that has forbidden all public and private schools from starting before August 23. The mandatory starting date law does not apply to districts that have year-round school.



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