Local districts opposed to Missouri bill that would push back first day of school

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NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There’s a debate brewing between two powerful forces in Missouri. The tourism industry and education officials are at odds over a proposal to prevent starting school in the first half of August.

House Bill 161, sponsored by State Rep. Jeff Knight (R-Lebanon), calls for a ban on any public school district from starting school 14 days before the first Monday of September.

Supporters say the first two weeks of August are critical to Missouri’s tourism industry. The Missouri State Fair is also held in the first half of August.

Tammy Henderson, a community relations and government affairs specialist for the North Kansas City School District, recognizes the importance of tourism but argues a state mandate restricting the district calendar would hurt students.

“We have 20,000 students in our school district,” Henderson said, “and about half engage in some kind of summer learning.”

In addition to jeopardizing summer school schedules, Henderson said the current calendar already allows for fall, winter and spring breaks. She said the bill sounds like a one-size-fits all approach to a decision that should be handled locally.

“It just makes sense, you have locally elected school boards that determine priorities and determine things for school districts,” Henderson said. “Why not leave this up to them?”

The Missouri House passed HB 161; it’s still awaiting a vote in the Missouri Senate. If passed, the law would begin with the 2020-21 school year.

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