School Start Date Legislation Re-emerges

It was less than 20 years ago when the tourism industry successfully lobbied the legislature to pass a law that required schools to start on or after Sept. 1.  Since its implementation, the industry has had to defend why this policy change has been good for the state of Wisconsin.

Sen. Alberta Darling (R – River Hills) and Rep. Jim Ott (R – Mequon) have introduced AB103 and SB96, bills that include a full repeal of the school start law.

School districts have disliked the change for various reasons.  Administrators dislike not having total control of their calendar, they also point out that many students are already engaged in fall activities, and believe starting earlier benefits kids taking standardized tests later in the year.  They could have up to two more weeks of instruction before being tested.

Rep. Joel Kitchens (R – Sturgeon Bay), in a recent column, discussed his opposition to the legislation.  As a representative of Door County, Rep. Kitchens is concerned about the impact a law change would have on tourism revenues and small business.

In 2015, visitors spent $130 million more in August than in June, generating $10 million more in tax revenue and 3,300 more jobs.  Parents also like current law. A survey conducted by St. Norbert College Strategic Research Institute in the fall of 2016 found that 68 percent of Wisconsin parents support the Sept. 1 school start date law.  The parents want more family time in August when its warmer.

Neither bill has been scheduled for a public hearing at this time.