Pre-Labor Day school divides rural Minnesota

A hearing is underway Wednesday morning in the Minnesota Senate Education Committee, with several rural school districts supporting bills to start school before Labor Day. Labor Day is late this year -- Sept. 7th -- and many rural school districts believe that's too late to start school, and are asking for exemptions.

What the schools are saying

"We want our students to have as much time before teachers as possible." - Montevideo Superintendent Luther Heller

"It sounds ridiculous, but the football season is 60 percent over by the time school starts." - Willmar Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard

Tourism factor

Joel Carlson, a lobbyist for the Minnesota resort industry, told senators that a late Labor Day is good for the state's tourism industry.

"We get an extra week to use our properties," he said.

Carlson added that research shows starting school before Labor Day has no effect on student achievement. But Minnesota State Fair general manager Jerry Hammer said an early start could have a devastating effect on the Great Minnesota Get-Together.

"If early school becomes the norm, then the fair's role in the state will diminish," Hammer said.

Hammer argued that when school starts early, the fair's attendance goes down, and so does revenue. He said the fair has been self-sustaining, but if revenues go down because of an early school start, it may need state help.