North Dakota House Votes Down Bill Mandating Later School Year Start Date

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Currently North Dakota law leaves the school year start date up to local school districts. Many districts choose to start their school years in mid to early August, which causes a number of headaches. Families have a smaller window into which vacations and other summer time leisure activities must be fit. Seasonal business, particularly those catering to the tourism trade, must deal with losing a significant chunk of their labor force when students go back to school.

To address these issues HB1248, introduced by Rep. Mike Schatz, would have prohibited schools from starting their year any earlier than “The first day of a school district’s calendar may not occur before the Monday of the fifth week in August.”

Unfortunately, after much debate, the House voted it down on a 35 – 53 vote, with the “local control” argument seeming to carry the day in the floor debate. Here’s video:

As a parent myself, I would have liked to have seen this bill pass. The “local control” argument is a bit facetious. The legislature already mandates holidays, teachers conferences and other issues. And, during the floor debate, Rep. Ben Koppelman (himself the former president of a school board) made a valid point about school administrators and teachers having far more say in the calendar than parents. Thus, the school year tends to be set around what works best for them, not necessarily what works best for parents and students.

Rep. Koppleman argued that the entire school year could easily be fit between Labor Day and Memorial Day, thus leaving the summer months between those two holidays open for family time. That would be a boon for the state’s tourism trade and other businesses and, much more importantly, the state’s students and families.

Unfortunately, it didn’t win over enough votes.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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