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A good sign that a law might need changed is when it has more people trying to get out of it than those who support it.
That’s the case with Virginia’s “King’s Dominion law.”
That now-antiquated law was passed in the 1980s as an attempt to support the tourism industry in Virginia. But its time has passed.
Currently, more than half of the school districts in the Commonwealth—including Bedford County Public Schools—now receive waivers from having to follow the rule, which mandates that school systems can’t start classes before Labor Day. That’s 77 of the 132 districts that opt out of the law.
That should be enough evidence that the law has passed its prime and needs to be eliminated. Why should state government mandate when local school systems start their school year?
The Governor certainly thinks it’s time to end this mess. So do Virginia’s 132 school superintendents who recently signed on to the Blueprint for Virginia Education Reform that called for school districts to have flexibility in deciding when to start the school year.
Gov. Bob McDonnell proposed repealing the Labor Day law when he outlined his legislative agenda for the year, stating that “the exception has become the rule.”
“When that happens, it seems like the rule should be modified,” McDonnell noted.
But the tourism industry has been against repealing the law. Those communities that rely heavily on that industry should certainly have the option to seek the later starting date. But it should be an option, not a mandated law that everyone has to follow.
There are good reasons why the law is problematic.
One issue against the rule, noted by superintendents, is that the later start date means that students have less time to prepare for standardized testing.
The Virginia School Boards Association is also in favor of having the law repealed.
“Much has changed in the nearly three decades since the passage of the Labor Day Law,” noted Joan Wodiska, the association’s president, in a story by Chaneé Patterson of the Capital News Service. “This relic of the old economy is the definition of a burdensome, costly, outdated and unnecessary state mandate. In fact, today, the state Labor Day law directly conflicts with Virginia’s economic and educational goals. It must be repealed.”
Just who should be listened to when making such decisions—the tourism industry or the educators faced with the task of preparing the Commonwealth’s children for the future?
Though a Senate committee shot down a bill to repeal the law, the issue isn’t dead yet. The Virginia House of Delegates has passed a bill to repeal the mandate on a 76-23 vote. Legislation now heads back to the Senate for a vote.
Let’s hope this time the Senate listens to the folks who really care about education.