House Committee explores uniform start date for public schools

In an effort to create a more standardized start date for schools across Missouri, this week the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee held a public hearing on a bill that would create a uniform date for schools to open and close in Missouri.

House Bill 1139, sponsored by Rep. Steve Cookson (R-Poplar Bluff) would require that Missouri students in public schools attend for a minimum of 1,085 hours with no minimum of days. An amendment on the bill would also create a start date for schools that would be no earlier than August 25 of each year and the school year can end no later than May 31.

The bill also defines the terms of summer school programs, allowing them to be no more than 144 hours or six weeks. Neighboring states Arkansas and Iowa have enacted similar legislation.

The Missouri Chamber is supportive of this legislation and Tracy King, vice president of governmental affairs, testified on its behalf.

“We are strongly in favor of this bill, specifically the uniform start date,” King testified. “The impact on tourism and small business from losing part of their work force during the busy months is measurable. It is estimated the Missouri economy is losing $11.1 million annually due to the staggered start dates.

In 2003 a bill was passed by the legislature to create a uniform start date, but allowed an exception for any district that applied for an agricultural exemption. After the bill passed, 500 of the 526 Missouri school districts applied and were given the agricultural exemption.

Early school start dates create challenges for students, families and business. Families wanting to schedule vacations in late summer and rural families who have children involved in livestock and farming operations can be hindered by early school start dates.

No action was taken on the bill.

For more information about this issue, please contact Tracy King at tking@mochamber.com or by phone at 573-634-3511.

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