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Pioneer Editorial: School start an issue for IP's Horner

The next two weeks will be quite an experiment for our northern resorts, lodging, restaurants and other tourism-related retail establishments.

This year is an exception to the law -- pushed by Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker -- which requires no public school to start before Labor Day. As a result, this week saw more than 16,000 students in 25 southwestern Minnesota school districts return to the classrooms.

Resort owners have long fought for those extra weeks of no school. First, it allows families to still take late-summer vacations and, especially, around the Labor Day holiday, the last of the summer. Also, as school starts the teen labor force dwindles. Resorts lose their workers, places like Dairy Queen and the fast food joints have scheduling problems, and youth activities diminish.

Another large venue affected by early school starts is the Minnesota State Fair, which relies on a lot of teenage help, which could cripple its workforce should the Twin Cities schools start before Labor Day.

One gubernatorial candidate -- the Independence Party's Tom Horner -- sees school start as a campaign issue and is the only one to so far raise it as such.

Since the early start is to facilitate statewide testing in the spring, he suggests a win-win solution: Teachers in all school districts return to work before Labor Day for in-service training days that are now spread throughout the year. Students would start after Labor Day, but still have the same number of classroom days.

"Teachers are ready to teach, students are ready to learn," Horner says. "Reserving as many days as possible from September through June for classroom instruction should be the highest priority of the state."

We'd like to hear from Democrat Mark Dayton and Republican Tom Emmer on the subject, but we believe Mr. Horner is on the right track.