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Chiild-Labor Day?

September 23, 2007

Officials of Pennsylvania's tourism industry recently convinced Rep. Robert Godshall, R-Montgomery, to introduce a bill that would prevent the state's 501 school districts from starting classes until after the Labor Day weekend. Industry officials sought the bill because they say that the earlier starts reduce visitor numbers during what has traditionally been the last week of summer vacation. Young employees are also lost when they must return to school, they said.

The measure is opposed by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and the state's largest teachers' union, with representatives of those groups saying that the early start is needed to get in the annually required 180 days of instruction, even if there are snow closures and/or teacher strikes.

In Maryland, school officials say the pre-Labor Day start is needed to get in 90 days of instruction before students take the High School Assessments (HSA) in algebra, English 10, government and biology. The school start date is calculated by counting back 90 days from the HSA testing dates in January. The freshman class of 2009 will be required to pass those assessments prior to graduation.

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Our question: Is there a solution to this scheduling situation that could allow students and their families to have that one last weekend free without interfering with the schools' academic mission?

My feeling is that this is a clear case of economics vs. education. Education is one of the most important aspects of a civilized society and today faces enormous challenges because of our affluent status. To compromise this issue sends the wrong message to our young people!

- George H. Miller

I am poorly versed on issues of public schooling, but do have an intuitive feel that the school year should best start after Labor Day. In the not-too-distant past, it was "known" that the school year should start after Labor Day. That instinctive wisdom is, I strongly suspect, still valid today and should not give way to fit schedules ordained by the school bureaucrats, most of whom either never taught.

Therefore, my suggested solution would be to have the school bureaucracy readjust the schedules to fit the reality of a school year beginning after Labor Day.

- Bill Soulis

We are demanding more and more of our school systems. We expect them to not only educate our children, but to solve all of our social problems. And, they do manage to accomplish much of this mission, with perhaps the exception of some of the inner-city schools in the largest cities. I would be reluctant to interfere with their current needs for scheduling, although I must admit that a part of me dislikes the shortening of the summer season.

With good planning, families can have it both ways. I observed two families going off together for a Labor Day weekend camping trip with four school-age children in the group, two in elementary, one in middle school and one just starting high school. They chose not to travel quite as far as they might have in the past, but they had a great holiday at a nearby state park.

I understand the concern of the tourism industry and attractions. They might try marketing the last weekend of the summer to their closer audience by suggesting that the weekend offers less crowding from more distant travelers.

- Linda Irvin-Craig

This is an easy one. Simply focus on the priority here. Is it money or education? Take your pick. Mine is education. And no matter what the final determination is, somewhere between 40 percent and 60 percent will be unhappy with whatever choice is made.

- Donald Day

I am a product of the state schools of California. In those days, all the young folks were needed to help with the orchard harvest - largely picking fruit and vegetables. Thus, the school year always began on the first Monday after Labor Day. But I recall virtually no school holidays the rest of the year, except maybe Thanksgiving and Christmas. We also got a week off in the spring usually including Easter. Several of my children who manage to afford to live in California, tell me little has changed - except that most of the fruit and vegetables is done by illegal immigrants.

- David L. Woods

Beware of the teacher's union - one of the largest and most politically powerful unions in the country. Everything the unions and the School Boards do is "For the Children." If they were so genuinely concerned about our children, the youngsters at McDonnell's, Burger King, Wendy's, et.al., would know how to count your change, or work with the limited menu without the need of a picture on every key for ordering. With enough instruction, we may even achieve teaching them good manners and the lost art of being polite.

The proposed measure to commence the opening of our schools after Labor Day is opposed by the union and the school boards stating that the early start is needed to get in the annually required 180 days of instruction, even if there are no snow closures and/or teacher's strikes.

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