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Pioneer Editorial: Howes staves off school start bill

Northern legislators successfully beat off Monday yet another attempt to move Minnesota's elementary and secondary schools start prior to Labor Day. The effort, which returns every few years, was staved off this time by a 13-11 vote in the House Finance Committee.

Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, was instrumental in "educating" his metro and farm area colleagues just how important it is to the northern Minnesota resort and tourism industry to have that one final weekend -- Labor Day weekend -- as a family get-away Up North.

And Rep. Howes had the facts to make his point. Allowing schools to start after Labor Day, thus taking away a family vacation opportunity as well as decimating the summer student workforce would have a "negative fiscal impact," he told the panel. It would cost $1.18 million in lost sales tax revenue to the state from about 800 small Minnesota resorts alone, Howes said.

The school start also has impact in the metro area -- as the Minnesota State Fair counts on teens to help work the fair, and would be lost with the earlier date. The Great Minnesota Get-Together could become the Great Minnesota Broad Expanse with an earlier date that would limit fair workers as well as family attendance.

Schools argue that a late start, especially for the next two years, will cause headaches at the other end, primarily with June school endings. But that's a red herring, the schedule should be adjustable to allow end of May to after Labor Day summer vacations.

When the economy is as poor as it is, taking away an opportunity for northern Minnesota's small resorts and tourism-related businesses for a holiday weekend for business could truly be the difference from making it or closing the doors. We thank Rep. Howes for his relentless attention to this issue.