state-capitolA bill to let school districts decide when to start classes in the fall cleared a three-member panel at the statehouse today. There were arguments on both sides, and the bill’s future is uncertain.

Ross Schoofs at Adventureland Park in Altoona says they lose money when school starts earlier in August. “Comparing August 15th when schools were back in session to a week earlier when they were not on August 8th, Adventureland’s attendance dropped 58 percent,” Schoofs says.

Senator Todd Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa, says it is evident the schools want to start earlier by the number of waiver requests. “Three-hundred-36 out of 338 school boards are asking for this,” Bowman says. Wayne Rose from the Newton KOA says business drops off even before school starts.

“Two weeks prior you can see people not coming to the campgrounds because of the mere fact that they’re trying to get their kids ready to go to school, shopping for clothes, that sort of thing,” Rose testified. But Emily Piper with the Iowa Association of School Boards, says changing the start date won’t help. “I think it’s a myth to assume the summer will be longer if we start in September,” Piper says.

Currently, state law requires schools to start no earlier than the week in which September 1st, but the Iowa Department of Education recently created criteria that makes schools show it would hurt the education of students if the didn’t approve an early start waiver.

Schools also argue that students take Advanced Placement tests in the spring, so starting school earlier in the fall gives them more time to prepare. A spokesman for the Iowa Lodging Association quotes a survey showing most Iowans favor a later start date for schools.