Let Iowa’s Schools Determine Their Own Start Date



Back to schoolLocal control in education is under attack again in Iowa.  This time in the form of House Study Bill 671 that is currently being considered by the Iowa House Ways and Means Committee.  The bill in essence says that the first day of school can be no earlier than September 1.  If a school district wants to start earlier than this they must receive a waiver from the Iowa Department of Education if they have a pilot program for an “innovative school year.”  Schools that are running on trimesters are exempt, and schools that want to seek the waiver must pay a $100 waiver fee to the department.

There are two primary issues that is driving this bill – the Iowa State Fair and increased energy costs for running air conditioning units in August.

The Iowa Association of Christian Schools in their legislative update pointed out in regards to the energy costs that that those concerns are unwarranted… “public schools are using the penny sales tax to increase building efficiency and IACS schools are not pulling down State dollars for utility costs.”

Before the Iowa House decides to trample all over the ability of school districts and non-public schools with the input from parents to determine their own calendar.  IACS brings up the following points why schools would want to start earlier than September 1:

  • To avoid spending a week in January refreshing students’ memories, effectively adding days of instruction.
  • To avoid taking exams immediately after Christmas break.
  • To allow those students graduating at semester to attend college starting in January.
  • To avoid the impact of made-up snow days extending well in to June.
  • To facilitate dual credit courses for high school students with post-secondary institutions by having the calendars better aligned.
  • Student athletes are on campus already August 11 for the State (IHSAA and IGHSAU) mandated start of Fall sports practices (football, volleyball, and Cross-country) with first contests starting the week of August 20.  It makes no sense to have football and volleyball games and not yet be in school.
  • To prep students for the finals testing regimen they will likely face in college, and allow them to enjoy winter break with no finals hanging over their heads.
  • To give some buffer between the end of the school year and the opportunity for teachers to begin summer coursework in June.

It just doesn’t make sense for the Legislature to be making these types of decisions for schools, and it cedes more power over to the Iowa Department of Education.  Certainly something they don’t need.  Not only should the Ways and Means Committee kill this bill, but they should also strike the current language in the code as well. Let schools, not the state, determine their start date.

Bonus: Here are the members of the Iowa House Ways and Means Committee along with their email addresses.

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