COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio lawmakers who want public schools to wait until after Labor Day to start classes say the state's tourism industry loses business when kids go back to school too early.
Rep. Bill Hayes, a co-sponsor of the proposed legislation, says one reason for the bill was to see if having schools open later would help tourism, which he says is the state's third-biggest industry.
By extending the summer vacation season, the tourism and recreation industry can "thrive and generate revenue for the economy that's suffering so terribly in the state," according to Hayes. That would also generate state revenue, part of which gets passed down to public schools, he said.
Ohio school districts now set their own calendars, with many starting in middle or late August.
The same bill also would determine the length of the school year based on the number of hours students are in class, not the number of days. Under current Ohio law, schools must be open 182 days. That number, Hayes said, includes days when classes are not in session, such as teacher conference days.
Representatives of the Ohio School Boards Association and the Ohio Association of School Business Officials were among those testifying against the bill Wednesday before the House Education Committee.
"If the goal is for our students to be better equipped to compete in a global economy, placing restrictions on when districts can conduct school is not the answer," said Damon Asbury, director of legislative services for the school boards association.
The bill would require secondary-school students to be in class a minimum of 1,001 hours during the school year, with fewer hours for younger students.
Marc Schare, a member of the Worthington school board in suburban Columbus, testified that the legislation is "essentially allowing us to shave five full weeks off the school year" and could reduce the quality of education.
The Worthington board approved a resolution asking the General Assembly and Gov. John Kasich to reject or veto the legislation.
The bill would give school districts a way to opt out of the post-Labor Day requirement if they hold a public hearing and their school board votes on a new start date, Hayes said. Schools would not be permitted to decrease class hours without school board approval.
Hayes, a Licking County Republican, said that he thinks the bill will increase educational time in many districts.
Hayes' legislative aide, Sam Smith, said Thursday that the bill also would give schools more flexibility in scheduling that could result in reduced costs for transportation and other school operations.