Other Views: Don’t start school until after Sept. 1

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Tom Diehl
Wednesday, March 29, 2017

In the early 2000s, leaders of both the education and tourism industries sat down to compromise on a uniform school start date. Both sides negotiated that Wisconsin would have a uniform start date for public schools of after Sept. 1. This date has proven over the years to be a success and has created a good balance for Wisconsin schools and tourism.

The importance of protecting vacation time during the month of August in Wisconsin comes down to weather and traditions. In 2015, visitors spent $130 million more in August than in June, generating $10 million more in state and local tax revenue. Removing the Sept. 1 school start date would clearly lead to less revenue for Wisconsin businesses and employees and less tax revenue for Wisconsin state government during the peak month of August.

One of the major reasons for August’s impact on our economy is the difference in temperature of the lakes. In 2016, Lake Minocqua in Vilas County had a temperature reading at three feet of 63.6 degrees on June 8, and that reading climbed to 74.7 degrees by Aug. 15.

This is a significant difference in temperature and would no doubt impact a family’s decision to vacation in Wisconsin if late August was replaced with early June. For example, the Lake of the Ozarks, six hours south of Wisconsin, has an average lake temperature of 78 degrees in June.

Finding good balance for our schools and the tourism economy has always been one of our top priorities. We are pleased the school boards and districts now have great flexibility in setting their school calendar; selecting holiday breaks and staff development days,; making up snow and cold days,; and determining the last day of school. This flexibility, along with the steady improvement in AP scores over the last 17 years, shows we have struck a good balance.

Wisconsin also has a good balance of public support on this issue and a majority of Wisconsin residents support the current system. A 2016 survey by St. Norbert’s Strategic Research Institute found that a 68 percent of parents in Wisconsin support the current date of after Sept. 1.

Many of the respondents stated that summer is already short enough.

Summer in Wisconsin is incredibly important to the success of our economy and schools. Keeping the Sept. 1 start date is critical to our continued success.

Tom Diehl is president of the Association of Wisconsin Tourism Attractions with 60 members throughout Wisconsin.


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