Bill would mean later school-year start

State to consider measure for 4th year in a row

NASHVILLE - Public schools across Tennessee would open later in the year if a group of parents, some state legislators and the tourism industry have their way.

For the fourth consecutive year, the Tennessee Legislature will consider a bill in 2010 prohibiting the opening of schools prior to Labor Day or, at the earliest, the fourth Monday in August, the House Republican Caucus said last week. Schools operating on "nontraditional" or year-round calendars would be exempt.

"Obviously there's been a push and discussion on it and there will be again," Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, said Friday. "Schools are starting - in some places in 90-degree heat. Kids are traveling in the heat and air conditioners are running overtime, costing Tennesseans thousands of dollars."

Knox County schools began classes this year on Aug. 17, the third Monday of the month. Dunn this year sponsored the bill, which was deferred to 2010.

The GOP caucus cited a December 2007 study by the University of Tennessee Tourism Institute that concluded that a post-Labor Day school start would generate nearly $190 million in new spending statewide by Tennessee residents taking new or extended summer vacations inside the state. That would generate nearly $10 million in new state tax revenue, $5.5 million in new local tax revenue, $73 million in new income and create 2,619 new jobs in the travel and tourism industry, according to the study by Steve Morse, an economist and director of the Tourism Institute.

A nonprofit group called Save Tennessee Summers is a leading advocate of the bill. Carol Duffin of Clarksville, Tenn., and Amy Olson of Knoxville formed the group because, Duffin said, "we were upset with the early start of school."

Local school boards and their statewide Tennessee School Boards Association will be back fighting the bill as a state infringement on local control of public schools.

"We are adamantly opposed to this legislation. To suggest that this proposal does not affect local control is perplexing to me," said TSBA assistant executive director Stephen Smith.