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After three decades of persistent lobbying, Michigan’s private park operators – along with their brethren in the tourism business – have persuaded the state’s legislature to approve a bill mandating that public schools begin the school year after Labor Day in an effort to preserve the viability and jobs of seasonal businesses.
“We’ve always run into opposition from teachers and school boards, but for some reason this year, teachers never said a word,” said Wayne Purchase, executive director of the Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds of Michigan (ARVC Michigan), which joined the Travel Industry Coalition of Michigan in battling for the post-Labor Day start dates.
Like their peers in other states, Michigan park operators have long suffered from the policies of public school districts that have been starting their fall sessions as early as mid-August. Those early start dates, which had been employed by roughly half of Michigan’s public schools, posed a double whammy for park operators. They not only experienced a shortening of their summer tourism season, but the elimination of their part-time workforce of high school age children.
“I own a campground too. And I believe that (passage of this legislation) will generate an additional $20,000 a year (in business),” said Purchase, who owns the 40-site Mio Pine Acres in Mio, Mich.
Tourism elements in other states across the country, in turn, continue to push for post-Labor Day startup dates for public schools, including Texas and Pennsylvania, the latter of which will consider new legislation mandating post-Labor Day start dates for public schools after the first of the year.
The Pennsylvania Campground Owners Association (PCOA) has joined the Amusement Park Association, the Pennsylvania Tourism and Lodging Association, the Pennsylvania State Association of County Fairs and the Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau in lobbying for the new legislation. PCOA is cautiously optimistic, noting in its recent newsletter that no Pennsylvania legislators have spoken against the idea of a post-Labor Day school year in a recent hearing.
In 2004, the Texas Comptroller issued a report indicating that early school openings cost Texas $790 million in economic activity every year.