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Education Department has new proposal for school start date

(Radio Iowa) – The Iowa Department of Education has come up with new proposed rules for when schools can start classes in the fall. Current law says schools can start no earlier than the week in which September 1st falls, but most schools get waivers to start earlier in August. Under the new formula, schools could continue to easily get waivers to start between August 19th and 23rd, but it would be tough to start any earlier.

The Education Department’s Mike Cormack says the plan will still leave some people unhappy. “It’s one side that says schools should be able to make whatever decision they want on this and that’s been the defacto status quo,” Cormack says, “and the other side says the law has a date there for a purpose. Why are we not having a September 1st start?”

The new proposal is considered a compromise between educators who want to set their own calendars and the tourism industry which loses money when kids go back to school earlier in August. Cormack says with their current calendars, 30-percent of school districts would be affected by the new formula, but most would miss the new cutoff date by only a few days.

The change means it will be harder to start school before the state fair concludes, which will upset some administrators and parents.

“We’ve had people from both perspectives say if we don’t like how this comes out we’ll sue you,” he says.

“We’ve heard that from both elements.” If the board approves the new rules this week and a legislative committee signs off, the change would go into effect for the 2014 school year.