By Tony Romeo
HARRISBURG, Pa. (CBS) – State lawmakers are again considering legislation that would require school districts in Pennsylvania to begin classes after Labor Day.
The bill has been around for several sessions of the legislature. The state House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee recently held another hearing on the issue. And this time, Republican Jerry Stern, the committee chairman, says there may be more interest in advancing the bill because of economic conditions.
“I think the commonwealth is looking for innovative ways – and I believe especially this administration – looking at ways to try to generate revenues that may be out there that are being missed at this current time,” Stern says. “Opening schools after Labor Day would generate additional Commonwealth revenues.”
Stern cites a 2006 Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report estimating that $378 million dollars would be added to the state’s economy if all schools began after Labor Day, based on the notion that families would do more travelling in the week before the holiday.
At a recent hearing on the bill, members of the state House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee heard familiar arguments. Panel member Republican Dan Moul pressed Jim Buckheit of the Pennsylvania Association of School Administrators about why so many schools now open before Labor Day.
“And I’m trying to figure out what changed that started making schools say, ‘we know what’s better for your children, and don’t tell us what to do. We’re starting a couple days before Labor Day, and we don’t care if it screws up the tourism industry.’ What changed?” Moul asked.
“Well, first, the population has changed,” Buckheit said. “The demographics of the state has changed, we’re more diverse than we used to be.”
Tourism industry representatives say many attractions must close early due to lack of employees.