Governor Terry Branstad says if legislators don’t pass a law to ensure Iowa’s K-through-12 schools don’t start in mid-August, he may take action on his own. The Iowa Department of Education routinely grants waivers from the state law that says schools may not start before the week in which September 1st falls.
Branstad was governor back in 1983 when that law was passed. “The whole idea was we want families to be able to have vacations in August and children to be able to go to places like Okoboji and the State Fair and other attractions around the state of Iowa,” Branstad says, “and that starting school so early really hurt our state’s economy and cost jobs.”
But later during Branstad’s previous 16-year tenure as governor, his Department of Education began granting waivers from the mandatory school start date law. Branstad returned to the governorship in January of 2011, but he hasn’t asked the agency to change the policy of granting waivers so schools can start as early as August 15th.
“If the legislature fails to act, I think that might be something that we would seriously look at,” Branstad says. A bill that would charge schools a $100 fee to ask for the waiver is eligible for debate in the Iowa House. But the waiver would allow schools to start no earlier than the 4th Monday in August.
Last week Branstad lamented that his daughter, who is a school teacher in Waukee, will have to start on August 9th for teacher preparation work, preventing her from attending the Iowa State Fair.