A House committee has voted to push back the "official" start date for K-through-12 public schools in Iowa.
Current law actually bars schools from starting before September 1, but nearly every district in Iowa gets a waiver from the state to start in August. A bill that cleared the House Education Committee Monday would forbid schools from beginning classes before the last Monday in August.
Representative Mike May, a Republican from Spirit Lake, backs the bill. "I believe there are some real advantages in starting at the same time, when kids are moving from school to school, when we’re trying to get seamless education going between high schools and community colleges," May says. "I mean, I just see a lot of benefits in having a more standard calendar."
May owns a resort of Lake Okoboji and he argues tourism attractions throughout the state lose millions of dollars because families can’t vacation here in August, because school’s starting too early. "If they don’t travel to Iowa in August, they will go to Cancun, California, Florida in the winter time when they have that long vacation," May says.
The Iowa Association of School Boards argues local school boards know best how to set the year’s calendar. For example, many K-through-12 schools in college towns operate on an academic calendar that’s identical to the local college or university. Others argue the earlier mid-August starting date allows for longer holiday breaks during the school year, even week-long spring breaks in some districts.
May, who is a retired teacher, says longer breaks shouldn’t be an objective. "I find no substantive research that says that if you spread out the school year you improve student achievement — without adding days or contract time with kids, of course," May says. "There just isn’t any research out there to show that."
May made his comments today on Iowa Public Radio. The bill which passed the House Education Committee must next be debated by the full, 100-member Iowa House before it goes to the senate for review.