A Virginia Senate panel has defeated a set of three bills that would have repealed a state mandate, nicknamed the "Kings Dominion Law," that schools open after Labor Day.
The move marks a failure to update a decades-old policy, and comes after testimony by a number of tourism industry representatives, who argued that moving the first day of school before the holiday would hurt businesses at a vulnerable time, costing the state an estimated $369 million in lost revenue and wages and $21 million in tax revenue, the Richmond Times Dispatch reports.
The law's amusement park namesake and implementation originated in the 1980s to bolster Virginia's businesses and tourism industry. The current law permits school districts to start the year early only with a waiver from the state Board of Education for "good cause."
The defeated legislation would have allowed districts to set their own academic calendars. Currently, 77 of the state's 132 school systems already carry waivers to begin the school year before Labor Day, according to the Times Dispatch.
"We're very, very disappointed," Laura Fornash, Virginia's secretary of education, told The Washington Post. Fornash had pushed the Senate committee to adopt the legislation.
A House subcommittee on Thursday approved its version of the bill, which will likely face another vote from the same Senate committee if it passes the full House.
The House bill was introduced by Democratic state Sen. Joe Morrissey. At a news conference Thursday, Morrissey said allowing schools to start before labor day would allow room for more days of "actual education" and eliminate wasted tax dollars of $50 million a day, noting that the last 10 days of the academic year are wasted after Advanced Placement and standardized tests have been administered.
"Who is going to make the decisions?" Morrissey said at the news conference Thursday, WTVR reports. "I suggest that it not be Tweety bird or Bugs Bunny or Scooby Doo or Sponge Bob that makes those decisions. They ought not to be making education decisions in the Commonwealth of Virginia."