A panel of state legislators scolded state education officials this morning for granting waivers so Iowa schools may start in August. But after a 90 minute statehouse hearing on the issue, the Administrative Rules Review Committee took no action. Judy Jeffries, an administrator in the Iowa Department of Education, says current Iowa law requires schools to start after Labor Day, unless September 1st falls on a Sunday. Jeffries says education officials tried to get the legislature to revise the law, because so many schools requested waivers. But when lawmakers balked, the Department of Education decided to grant all waiver requests if schools have a public hearing, and the school board approves the move. Jeffries says Iowa schools have been starting about a week and a half before Labor Day for the past few years. Jeffries says it just so happened the school start dates seemed earlier this year since Labor Day was September 1st. But Senator Jeff Angelo, a Republican from Creston, says the Department should not be granting all the requests for early starts to the school year. Angelo says state education officials determined it was a “local control” issue, but he says they should be sticking to the letter of the law. And Senator Dave Heaton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, worries too much classtime is lost when students start school in August, but get released early because of the heat.But Jeffries, the education official, says superintendents say one reason they like to start in August is because students in the early grades learn better in August than they do in mid-June, and schools like to set up the calendar so first semester tests are given before the students leave on Christmas Break.And Senator Michael Connolly, a Democrat from Dubuque, accused his colleagues of grandstanding on the issue because he says the law allows the waiver process to be used. Connolly says the decision of when to start school should be made by local school boards. Connolly says the law is being interpreted correctly by state education officials, and Connolly says a few legislators are demogoging on the issue because it got really hot in August.
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