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Indiana dealers pursue school start issue

Indiana – where basketball is sacred and a movement to return schools to a post-Labor Day start is gaining real momentum. And it should!Kudos to the members of the Indiana Marine Trades Association for making the school issue a priority in their legislative agenda. In fact, it’s been one of their goals for about six years! They’ve stuck with it and it’s likely their persistence will be paying off.

“We have advocated for years that if Indiana schools would go back to starting after Labor Day, it would be good for Indiana families, our boating industry and much more,” says Pat Casey, of Casey’s Cove Marina in Angola, Ind. Casey is the point man for IMTA on this quest. He and others testified last week before an interim Study Committee on Education conducted by Sen. Dennis Kruse ,who is also chairman of the Indiana Senate Committee on Education & Career Development.

Kruse has indicated he wants to introduce legislation calling for schools to open after Labor Day and close by Memorial Day, something that IMTA and nearly all others supported in testimony.

The negative impact of the swing to nontraditional school calendars -- some starting as early as the first week of August, like Plano, Texas, for example -- is finally being realized. In a 2007 market data study, a whopping 76 percent of all schools were now opening before Labor Day. In response, 11 states have already passed legislation to move the openings back to late August or after Labor Day. Texas has now passed legislation where its 1,033 school districts may not start prior to the fourth week of August.

Michigan was among the first to pass legislation mandating its 838 school districts begin classes after Labor Day. The Michigan Boating Industries Association was a vocal proponent of the change. The impact has been to extend family boating and vacation time, keep student workers employed longer, increase statewide tourism in August and put more than $10 million in additional tourism tax revenues into Michigan’s coffers!

Besides Indiana, it’s reported that Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio, Iowa and Kentucky are all taking up the start date debate, pressured by parent organizations, tourism and recreational businesses, among others. In Indiana, for example, a broad-based coalition called “Save Indiana Summers” is in the hunt. A similar coalition is also active in Ohio.

According to Casey, at the Indiana hearing, “about 40 people or groups offered testimony and 35 of them were in favor. A Ft. Wayne TV call-in survey found 84 percent of the callers favored the idea. It’s finally grown into a real movement and I predict the Indiana General Assembly will move on it,” he added.

It’s a fact that the slide to earlier school openings has not been good for our boating businesses. No one needs to tell a marina operator what happens to activity once school starts! Now is the time to seek legislation in your state to put schools back on traditional startup schedules. Find out if there’s such a movement in your state, join it and work for a positive change.

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