CONCORD — A high-powered commission failed to endorse moving the start of all public schools until after Labor Day, but submitted a report that offers a “road map” on how to overcome obstacles to the change.
Gov. Chris Sununu, an advocate of moving the start date, praised the work of the 13-person panel.
“I would like to thank the entire Save our Summers Commission, especially Chairman Jamie Burnett, for the countless hours they put into this important initiative,” Sununu said. “It will serve as a road map for policymakers as they consider and debate whether schools should start before or after Labor Day.”
Sununu said the commission’s 19-page report carefully spells out existing barriers to the change, but offers suggestions on how to shape legislation should the next Legislature agree with Sununu that the school start change should be made.
“I believe there is a pathway forward to bring uniformity to school calendars and ensure local control for school districts to determine the most effective approach to achieve it,” Sununu said. “Restoring a few days in August and beginning school after the traditional end-of-summer holiday would spark economic activity, increase revenues, and bring relief to tourism-dependent businesses and attractions. Importantly, it would also provide students with additional income, work experience, and learning opportunities outside the traditional classroom setting.”
The two largest teachers union, along with the school board and school administration lobbying groups, all opposed the change.
“While these organizations represent different constituencies, and exhibited minor differences in their perspectives, they all shared a common, primary objection to requiring schools to start after Labor Day which centered on a desire to maintain local discretion and complete decision-making authority over the calendar,” the report said.
Rep. Richard Ladd, R-Haverhill, and the outgoing chairman of the House Education Committee, authored his own statement opposing it.
“The minority takes the position that the responsibility for adopting a public school calendar start date is that of the local school board,” wrote Ladd, a retired school administrator.
But all five members on the commission representing the tourism industry embraced the change in their own minority report.
“It is our opinion that there is no definitive obstacle in creating a consistent post-Labor Day school start date in the state,” the tourism members wrote.
“No research or data was presented that suggested that a post-Labor Day start would have an adverse impact on New Hampshire children’s education. However an economic impact study was presented that showed that the state would stand to gain substantial revenue as a result of changing the school start date.”
Brian Gottlob of PolEcon Research of Dover told the commission that starting school after Labor Day would mean at least a $24 million boost to the economy and raise local and state revenue by at least $1.6 million and up to $2.8 million.
Presently, 84 percent of school districts start school before Labor Day. Chairman Burnett said the calendar would need to be shifted an average of two to three days.
Any new law to make this change should be pushed out three years so all local collective bargaining agreements that conflict with it could expire, Burnett said.