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House committee flunks early school start

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ST. PAUL - Rural lawmakers with resorts in their areas defeated an attempt to allow school districts to start classes before Labor Day.

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The bill failed in a Monday 13-11 House Finance Committee vote, but like most Minnesota legislative bills it still could come back to life.

"This isn't the right time to do it," Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said, adding the economy already is hurting many small, rural businesses. "We don't need to lose any more businesses."

Rukavina, who has no resorts in his district, said the move would have a devastating effect in rural areas.

The bill by Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, would have allowed school districts to start classes before Labor Day in the next two years because that summer-ending holiday comes so late.

She said school would run into mid-June for many districts if the existing post-Labor Day start law was allowed to continue.

"Developing a school calendar is very difficult given the parameters they have to work under," Norton said. "It is time that we allow school districts the flexibility to set their own calendar."

Norton said the law "micromanages school districts" and "caters to a specific industry."

Norton's measure would not require schools to start early, which she said allows districts with resorts to start after Labor Day.

However, GOP Rep. Larry Howes of Walker, from a resort-heavy area, said small resorts would lose a lot of money because students who live in areas with an early start would not be able to go to resorts.

And students who work in resorts may have to quit their summer jobs a week or 10 days early.

"With economy the way it is, it is not the time to roll dice," Howes said.

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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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