Debate Over Labor Day School Start Date

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It's the final days of a pure Michigan summer. People are boating, fishing and splashing. However many are thinking about back to school.

A new bill in the state House proposes school districts set their own academic start date rather than being required to wait until after Labor Day as current law requires. Any district that started before Labor Day would be required to take Friday off in addition to the holiday.

Some folks like the idea.

"When students go back to school in September after Labor Day, they kind of have to back track a little bit," said Laurie Hargrove from Jackson.

"If students start earlier they'll have more days off throughout the year so parents can take more long weekends to go up north or what-have-you," said Lynn Ross from Delta Township.

The state tourism industry said changing schools starting date back to before Labor Day would be bad for business and that a longer summer benefits schools.

"That's more tax revenues for the state," said Steven Yencich the President of the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association.

The association said extending the summer break through August has helped the industry.

"We've surveyed our members and they tell us that their occupancy is significantly higher in the last two weeks of August since the law was changed," said Yencich.

That said, the tourism association doesn't have hard numbers to back that up. Yencich said the numbers are there but the association just hasn't been able to gather them because it only has a handful of employees.

"My argument is not monetary. My argument is educational flexibility," said Representative Andy Schor, a Democrat from Lansing who sponsored the bill. [A link to the bill is below.]

Schor said he's concerned about kid's educations.

"If the argument is, the amount of money our tourism industry raises is more important, than why go back Labor Day? Why not wait two or three more weeks cause there's still warm weather," said Schor. "We need to make sure that we have educational flexibility that our kids are in school long enough to learn and be competitive nationally. I don't want to hurt the tourism industry. I believe very much in it. I'm up north all the time."

He said more breaks spread throughout the year would support the tourism industry.

"The reality is most schools have their bands, football teams, other athletics, cheer leading and things like that all back in [school] for the second and third week in August. So you've got most or half of the kids already there," said Schor.

A survey sponsored by the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association says 74 percent of voters support schools opening after Labor Day. That's up from 63 percent eight years ago. [A link to the study is below.]

"Tourism is the third largest industry in the state. We dropped down to 142,000 employees back in 2008-2009. We are back up to 200,000 employees as a result of Pure Michigan and statutory changes like post Labor Day schools and so when our industry flourishes the state benefits in terms of jobs and tax revenues," said Yencich.

Statistically, the Department of Education says the start day for school doesn't impact kids learning nearly as much as the number of school days students spend getting instruction. As far as summer learning loss-- the amount of information students forget during summer-- the Department of Education says while year round school successfully addresses the issue, starting a week early would not have an impact.

Current law requires schools to provide students with 1098 hours of instruction and at least 175 days of class.

Schor's bill has been referred to the Tourism Committee rather than the Education Committee.

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