Patti Ruff

Patti Ruff

Republicans on a House Committee have voted to set “on or after August 23” as the time frame for Iowa’s K-12 public schools to start the fall semester.

Iowa’s tourism industry has complained for years about schools starting classes earlier and earlier in August. Governor Branstad’s education director issued a memo two months ago telling schools they’ll no longer get waivers to ignore the state law which declares that Iowa schools are to start during the week in which September 1st falls.

Representative Patti Ruff, a Democrat from McGregor, is a former school board member and she says local school officials should be making this decision, not the state.

“I’ve only been here three years, but jokingly I said my first year here I wanted to tackle this, you know, push it back to local districts and here we are,” Ruff says. “It’s something that will be brought up again and again if something isn’t done this year.”

Ruff and all the other Democrats on the House Education Commtitee voted against having the state set the date for starting the fall semester.

Representative Ron Jorgensen, a Republican from Sioux City is also a former school board member and his first instinct was for “local control.”

“But I’m a realist and I felt that wasn’t going to be possible with the governor’s insistence,” Jorgensen says, “so I felt it was in everyone’s best interest to get something better than what’s in law right now.”

Both Jorgensen and Ruff worry the debate in the legislature on this issue will drag on, delaying decisions about when to start classes this fall, ultimately forcing every Iowa district that isn’t a year-round school to start the fall semester on Monday, August 31, 2015. That’s the first day of the week in which September 1 falls.