Iowa’s tourism industry does not support a bill in the Iowa House that would allow school districts and private accredited schools to begin the academic year earlier than Sept. 1. The industry worries an earlier start to the school year would deplete the high-school-age workforce during late summer.
Gaela Wilson of the Iowa Group Travel Association says tourism greatly affects small town economies since summertime dollars flow into the rest of the community.
“If they get here and the state is shut down because the restaurants are all closed, and so forth, they’ll go someplace else,” Wilson says. “They come through on the interstate, to get them to take a detour off to a little side community, it doesn’t do them any good to get there and everything is closed.”
Supporters of the bill say tourism revenue should not be prioritized over education.
Tom Narak, who works for School Administrators of Iowa, says his organization believes school boards should be deciding start dates.
“They’re accountable for student learning in their communities, and they’re responsible to make sure things are going well,” Narak says. “Every school board takes that very, very seriously, and its’ a little disturbing to think that decision comes from the top.”
The bill will next be considered by the entire House Education Committee.
The Iowa Department of Education issued new guidelines Wednesday for school districts seeking waivers that allow an earlier start to the school year.