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Board of Education to Let Legislature Deal with School Start Date Issue

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DES MOINES, Iowa--State leaders continue to debate the topic of school start times.

State law says, school districts cannot start classes before September 1st, but schools can apply for a waiver that allows them to start earlier.

In the past those waivers have been granted almost without exception.

However, Governor Terry Branstad says this year the law will be strictly enforced and it will be harder for schools to start in August.

Thursday afternoon, The Iowa Board of Education addressed the matter.

Some members say start dates are being dictated by tourism dollars.

“There was a sudden rug jerked out from every district in the state of Iowa because we are more concerned about the State Fair, beer sales and hotel/motel tax revenue tax in this state then all of the kids that are going to school in Iowa, “ says board member Diane Crookham-Johnson.

The Iowa Association of School Boards, which represents 2,000 citizen volunteers, is seeking a repeal of the law to allow each district flexibility.

“The role of the state is to set those broad and challenging parameters that we should all shoot for and give school districts the ability to innovate and accomplish them and that`s what they`re trying to do by adapting the school calendar,” says Executive Director of IASB Lisa Bartusek.

However, in the end it's ultimately the legislature’s decision, and the board agreed to step back and wait.

“I`m of the opinion that this is a legislative issue and I think we should give the legislature and the governor the time they need to work on this,” says board member Michael Knedler.

Lawmakers on both sides say the law needs to change, but that doing so will be difficult.

Lawmakers say they want everyone with an interest in school start dates to be part of the conversation as well as the governor.


  • John Smith

    Sure seems to me like it would be a whole lot less trouble to have the damned fair a week earlier, if that’s the Governor’s big issue. Maybe the Legislature should take THAT up, rather than get into the business of scheduling public schools.

  • Taxpayer

    How much are students really learning when you start in August then let them out early most days because of the heat? How about cutting the Wednesday half days, thereby gaining 18 days or so days of learning? Or cutting spring break or Christmas vacation by a couple of days? If you actually have school during the school year you can start in September and let out by the end of May.

  • The Phantom

    Yes they have to address it in the Legislature it is a law they are try to change John Smith. Get rid of the law and let each school district assign start dates and commencement dates that work best for the community they serve.

  • thoughtful

    Seems they have continually moved the fair earlier only to have school start dates move even earlier the next year. When I was a kid the fair used to be much later in August.

      • thoughtful

        The State Fair article says that prior to 1994 the fair ended on the Sunday one week prior to Labor Day. So I was correct in remembering years that the fair ended the last week of August. Be that as it may, I think if schools were willing to assure students who compete at the fair that they will not be penalized either in academics or extra-cur. activities it would be at least encouraging. Kids who work on a project all year long don’t want to be told by a band leader they have to not march in two football games if they take a day to go show their exhibit. Same with athletes. Believe it or not these kids really agonize over the decisions they have to make, and yes, I believe 4-H and FFA are great organizations and what the participants learn by their programs is very valuable.

      • John Smith

        I tend to agree that kids actually in competition at the fair deserve some leeway, but I think that should be up to the local schools, shouldn’t it? I don’t see that the State Legislature has any business intruding itself into this, let alone the Governor.

        As far as the State Fair dates are concerned, I scarcely think that moving them up a week is such a huge change that it justifies your saying that the fair used to be “much later in August”. In fact, it used to be a WEEK later, is all. Big deal. Can you OR the State Fair explain to us just exactly how the Fair has been harmed in any way?

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