Gov. Mike Parson has on his desk a bill that would ban schools from starting any earlier than 14 days before the first Monday in September.
If that legislation were in effect now, that would mean schools in Missouri could not open next month any sooner than Aug. 19. Most local school districts — including Joplin, Webb City, Carl Junction, Carthage and Neosho — will start their fall semester the week before that.
Our editorial board said in April, when this legislation from state Rep. Jeff Knight, R-Lebanon, was working its way through the House, that this wasn’t a good idea.
We stand by that belief now.
Knight and other lawmakers who supported his bill have argued that pushing back schools’ start date will give the state’s tourism industry a few more days in August to be profitable, to take advantage of summer travelers and the dollars they bring to local theme parks and outdoor activities.
But we don’t like the idea of our school districts being forced to give up their local control.
Our administrators and school board members know the unique and individual needs of our communities, and they should be able to start the fall term based on that understanding. In Joplin’s case (and we suspect many other districts do this as well), they also craft calendars with input from principals, teachers and staff to ensure that there are enough professional development days built in and that there is adequate time to prepare students for standardized testing.
School start dates are not, and should not be, a one-size-fits-all approach.
We appreciate the work lawmakers did during the legislative session to fund K-12 education, but we think this mandate on school start dates is wrong. Gov. Parson, we urge you to veto this portion of the bill.
Keep local control in our school districts’ hands.