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


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 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.

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  • Kevin Flanagan

    Would the school year have ended later?

  • RCND

    I never fully understood the fascination those who make the rules for schools have with numbers of days, other than it is easy to track and report. It leads to bad decisions on putting kids on the road in crappy weather because Superintendents don’t want to use up all their snow days, and more to the point, numbers of days spent sitting in class doesn’t necessarily mean they learned what they need to know. It also in the minds of our young ones that simply spending enough time sitting somewhere is a measurement of accomplishment.

    • DelawareBeachHouse

      Number of days, number of students = funding.

  • Game

    This sucks that this did not pass. Last year, our family came back from vacation in mid August so that the kids could start school. Then the had a random day off one week into the school year for “teachers training day”. They have two days off in Oct. for Teachers conventions (why they could not do that during summer or Christmas break has never made sense to me), two days off in Feb. for a “spring break”., four days off in March-April for another “spring break”.

    That is 9 days that the school is closed that most Parents employer’s are not. If you put those days on to the beginning of the year, we could have started after labor day.

    I am very pro-teacher and pro-education, but the schedule is flat out anti-parent and anti-kids.In all honestly as an employer it is also not employee friendly as my staff who are parents are forced to take unwanted vacation days in order to meet the schedule of the school.

    This bill should have passed.

  • DelawareBeachHouse

    Because local control has already been eroded, we should erode it more?
    I appreciate the goal, but no, it should be up to local boards.

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    From a purely academic perspective: students would do best if we get rid of summer vacation altogether. Are we serious about improving our schools? There is a huge loss over the summer. How many other countries (with better schools) have long summer breaks?

    We don’t have to add a single day to the year, but this change would be a good one for education.

    On a side note: nowhere in this article is there any suggestion of why schools want to start the year earlier. Is there a reason?

    Also, is there a reason parents can’t talk to their school board members and get in people who will do what they want? We’re expecting government to solve the problems created by lazy voters with yet more laws, and we should all know that government solutions create unintended problems.

  • ObservingTheProcess

    Although my kids are now out of school, I would have supported it as a parent. The school administrations build numerous days off in the school year that could easily make the schoold year from Labor Day to Memorial Day. In fact, I took a school calendar and within 15 minutes condensed the year to Labor Day to Memorial Day. When I brought the calendar to the attention of a school board member, basically what he said the Administor’s want it.