Iowa House approves mandated start to K-12 school calendar - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa House approves mandated start to K-12 school calendar

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HUDSON (KWWL) -

A bill to regulate the school start date in Iowa is moving on to the Senate for consideration. The legislation approved Tuesday by the House of Representatives would prohibit school districts from starting the year before the last Monday in August. House members approved the measure, 54 to 44.

Superintendent of Hudson Community Schools Anthony Voss said, he and most other district leaders adamantly oppose requiring a later start.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find a superintendent or a school board in Iowa that is in favor of this," he said.

As Voss explained, a lot of thought goes into planning a school calendar -- from an early dismissal one day, to an early start for the school year. Throughout the process, there is plenty of opportunity for feedback and opposition.

"We have to have a public hearing before we adopt our calendar. Nobody came to us -- or has ever come to us -- and said "we oppose when you're going to start school." So I don't know where this coming from," said Voss.

Supporters of the bill approved Tuesday point to another important aspect of education in Iowa -- the schedule of events for Future Farmers of America (FFA). With schools starting in mid-August, FFA students like Stefanie Newhouse find themselves making a choice: attend class, or show at the Iowa State Fair. Newhouse always chooses the state fair.

"I'm used to jumping in and out, missing a couple days here and there. So, I've gotten used to a routine of emailing my teachers and getting all my homework made up beforehand," she said.

Newhouse believes missing school for FFA is no different than missing school due to a sport. It takes some effort, but you can catch back up. Although, she realizes it's not so easy for everyone.

"I think it would be a little less stressful for the kids that are showing, and they can enjoy their showing experience a little more," said Newhouse.

Voss says, educators go out of their way to accommodate FFA students attending the state fair. He believes there's a different reason lawmakers brought up the bill -- they're listening to tourism lobbyists.

"I'm not sure how the tourism industry has as big of a say in local school policy as what they appear to have. And their sway a the capitol is a little alarming," said Voss.

Voss would like to see legislators focus on the bigger issue of education reform, and leave the layout of the school calendar to the people who follow it every day.

"Those are decisions that we talk about... we talk about it with the school board, we get input from teachers, we get input from community members. Our school improvement committee weighs in on the matter. A whole host of people in Hudson weigh in on the school calendar. So for them to come in and say -- too bad -- it seems out of sync. It seems inappropriate," he remarked.

Currently, Iowa law says schools cannot start before September first. But the vast majority of school districts use a waiver to start earlier in August. Governor Terry Branstad said Monday, he is willing to direct the Iowa Department of Education to stop granting those waivers.

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