WASHINGTON – The so-called “Kings Dominion law,” which requires some school districts across Virginia not to open until after Labor Day, could be gone soon.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed a series of education reforms that will eliminate many unfunded state mandates imposed on local school districts. In particular, he wants to give local boards more flexibility on school calendars, and that includes repealing the law prohibiting schools from opening before Labor Day.
Local school leaders have complained for years that opening in early September instead of late August puts students at an educational disadvantage, particularly when they take standardized national tests.
Many school districts have routinely asked for waivers so that classes can begin in August. Seventy-seven of the 132 school districts in the state received a waiver for the 2011-2012 school year.
“So now the exception has become the rule,” McDonnell says. “When that happens, it seems like the rule should be modified.”
The proposal is sure to be opposed by the tourism industry, which has argued for years that high school students are needed as employees into the early fall.
Other reforms on the governor’s list also are sure to spark controversy. He wants teacher contracts limited to one year at a time to create what he says will be more “accountability.” Teacher contracts now run three years.
McDonnell also is proposing that the state allow more charter schools, and that officials move toward lengthening both the school day and school year.
The governor’s proposed budget includes $438 million in new funding for kindergarten through 12th grade education over the next two years. The proposals must be approved by the General Assembly, which opens its session on Wednesday.