Later school start date bill unlikely to reach Iowa Senate this session

Current law says districts should wait until Sept. 1, but many request waivers

James Q. Lynch
Published: April 13 2012 | 2:08 pm - Updated: 3 April 2014 | 4:39 pm in
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The Iowa tourism industry’s pitch to push back the first day of school until late August found some takers in the Iowa House but won’t get a second look in the Senate.

Sen. Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, a supporter of a later school start date, assigned the bill to the Government Oversight Committee. However, Chairman Tom Courtney, D-Burlington, isn’t inclined to take it up.

“I don’t have a meeting scheduled,” Courtney said. “We have a lot of school funding issues that seem more important than the school start date.”

That won’t earn him a blue ribbon from the folks at the Iowa State Fair. Manager and CEO Gary Slater was encouraged when the House approved House File 2462 and sent it to the Senate.

Under current law, schools must wait until Sept. 1 to begin classes. However, most districts get a waiver from the Department of Education to start in mid-August. The tourism industry wants schools to start later so families can vacation during late August.

Earlier school start dates also create a conflict for people planning to attend the state fair. However, Slater said attendance may not be the best argument for pushing back the school start date.

That would be the youth education programs – 4-H and FFA – that culminate in showing livestock or taking other projects to the state fair, he said.

“Not all the learning in the world is contained in classrooms,” Slater said. “Some learning goes on here as well.”

The strong ag-related components of the fair, including the 4-H and FFA exhibitions, “are the only thing that separates the fair from an Adventureland theme park,” Slater said.

“It helps people recognize where their food and fiber comes from and that’s a little farther away than the supermarket,” Slater said.

Kibbie expressed disappointment Friday that the bill won’t be considered by the Senate.

“I would just as soon it would get considered by the Legislature,” he said, noting the Senate has voted for the later start date twice.

In 2006, the Senate voted 40-9 to require schools start no earlier than Aug. 25. However, the following year an amendment by Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyedan, whose district includes the Iowa Great Lakes, died on a 25-25 bipartisan vote.

“I think this compromise is something that schools could live with,” Kibbie said. “I get a lot of emails from administrators who don’t like this, but I think they ought to be more concerned about their funding.”

Slater is holding out some hope.

“The session’s not over,” he said, “and we know anything can happen.”

But with Oversight not meeting, Kibbie is not optimistic. Even amending it on to another bill would be difficult.

“It would be hard to make it fit, I think,” said Kibbie, who in his role as president of the Senate would rule on whether such an amendment would be germane to the bill.

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