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It's time for the King's Dominion law to go

Date published: 1/30/2013

FOR SOME TIME, Spotsylvania County schools have begun the school year in late August, giving teachers and students more time to prepare before spring Standards of Learning tests. Now the system is considering a later start--after Labor Day--because times have changed. The debate illustrates the fact that the decision of when to start school should be entirely up to the locality.

In 1986, the General Assembly passed what's been popularly ridiculed as the King's Dominion law. Tourist attractions, trying to squeeze a few more entertainment dollars from the public, benefited from schools starting after Labor Day--from ticket sales, of course, but also because they could keep their teenage summer hires longer. School divisions wishing to begin their year in August had to beg Richmond for a waiver to the rule. Nearly half did. Many were rebuffed. Now some, such as Spotsylvania, are reconsidering.

A bill in this General Assembly would nullify the King's Dominion law and leave school calendars entirely up to the divisions. The state's wealthy tourism industry is lobbying hard against the bill. What about the public? Some 68 percent of those polled by Virginia Commonwealth University think school systems should have the flexibility to decide their own start dates.

After all, schools are about education, not keeping roller-coasters plunging or turnstiles spinning. In the dominion of education, learning should trump the lobbyists' tribute to King Richmond.