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School Bus photoOp ed piece written by Ed Lump, President & CEO, Wisconsin Restaurant Association
September 1 School Start Date:
Myth vs. Fact

Myth #1: The September 1 School Start was passed when the tourism industry had difficulty finding enough employees to work through the Labor Day Weekend. Fact: The real reason for the law was to give families that did not have children involved in fall sports a few more weeks to enjoy the summer when the lakes are warmer and the weather is usually much better than it is in June. As an aside, we would have liked to set the start date at after Labor Day. September 1 was a compromise.

Myth #2: The tourism Industry is a $19 billion industry, therefore, tourism is a “special interest” lobby. That part is true but the implication is that tourism is a greedy business interest that does not care about students or schools. That is myth! Fact: In every community that we are aware of, restaurants, lodging and other retailers are among the biggest supporters of schools. Whether it is raffles, donations, advertising, scholarships or you name it, tourism businesses are always the first to step up and support schools. Then there is the property tax issue. An unprofitable business eventually fails. Tell us how an empty storefront helps a school? In Wisconsin summer is the whole pie for thousands of small independent business. A tourism business is greatly affected by weather, economy, fuel price, and the end and start of the school year. September 1 school start adds a few more weeks to the summer season in which to succeed.

Myth #3: Schools need flexibility. Fact: Schools have more flexibility than ever before. Back in 2000 the main argument against September 1 was that “the school calendar was a bargaining chip in contract negotiations.” Since 2011, the calendar is not bargained. The next argument was “the 180-day requirement.” That is also gone and removing that gave tremendous flexibility to school districts in that they could meet the “hours” requirement by adding minutes to the length of each school day. The next argument was that AP students need more time to prepare. We are not professional educators but it seems that summer school might take care of this need. There does not appear to be any evidence that Wisconsin AP scores are lower than they were before the law went into effect. In fact Wisconsin AP scores have steadily risen in the 17 years since the law was passed and now are among some of the highest in the nation.

Myth #4: There is strong public support to eliminate the September 1 school start law. Fact: A large majority of school families support the current law. The Strategic Research Institute of St. Norbert College released a study in December, 2016 which showed that 68% of parents strongly support or somewhat support public K-12 schools starting class on or after September 1. Similar surveys since 2000 have been consistent with these results.

Finally, the tourism industry believes that we are strong supporters of our schools at every level. Whether we are parents, grandparents or don’t have any children, we want the best education for our children, grandchildren and youthful employees. We sincerely believe that a summer job in our industry helps immensely in the education process transmitting many skills that cannot be learned in a formal education setting. We also believe that there needs to be more time for family vacations. Summer is the best time for most families to get together, play and enjoy each other’s company. It is a special time in Wisconsin. Let’s not shorten it. Keep the September 1 School Start Date!

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Wisconsin Restaurant Association • 2801 Fish Hatchery Rd. • Madison, WI 53713 • Tel: 608.270.9950 • Toll Free: 800.589.3211 • FAX: 608.270.9960