(3/11/14) A nearly 20-year-old debate over when Wisconsin schools can start their fall classes is being revived again.
La Crosse Superintendent Randy Nelson wants the state Legislature to end the requirement that schools wait until September first to start their new terms. To help force the issue, 26 La Crosse area school districts plan to ask for waivers, so that by 2015, they can start in mid-August. An area senator, Democrat Kathleen Vinehout, has proposed ending the September start date as an amendment to a bill that's up for state Senate approval today. That bill would end the 180-day requirement for schools to be in session -- though they would still have quotas for classroom hours. Vinehout said she was told by Senate Education chairman Luther Olsen that the entire bill would die if her measure was included. The La Crosse Tribune notes that Olsen's district includes Wisconsin Dells -- where business leaders first urged former Governor Tommy Thompson in the mid-1990's to require a later school starting date, so they could keep their summer help through Labor Day. Thompson allowed schools to open in August with local input -- but so many schools did it, that former Governor Scott McCallum locked the barn door in 2001 and made it much harder to get waivers to open in August.