The rule may be hard to come by in the District of Columbia, but in Virginia the state lawmakers are wiping it out daily with a vengeance. Besides meddling in redistricting and conflict-of-interest policies for local officials, the legislators in Richmond now seek to dictate what days local public schools can be open. They aren't too interested in what local school officials may think about this, either; the thought behind the measures passed in the House of Delegates and the State Senate is to cater to tourism, not education. The proposals were requested by a private tourist promoter, the Virginia Travel Council; they would prohibit public schools from opening before Labor Day.
"We love our school system, but we also love our tourist industry," said State Sen. Edward M. Holland of Arlington, who was among those arguing that the measure would be a boon to tourism and would allow students to hold summer jobs longer at theme parks, beaches and other businesses. How much longer is somewhat in doubt, however, if you assume that schools not opening until after Labor Day might have to run a little later in June.
But the point shouldn't be whether later school openings are important to certain travel promoters. For that matter, there's no particular educational magic in opening either before or after Labor Day; we have it on reasonably good authority that students from both the Pre-L.D. and Post- L.D. seasons have gone on to do well in some of the best colleges in the country. So why not leave opening-day timings to local authorities?
As Sen. R. Edward Houck of Spotsylvania noted, "We have no business, no business whatsoever getting involved in the day-to-day operation of our school systems. This is special-interest legislation at its best." And if it gets to Gov. Baliles, the special interest of local authorities and the people who elected them would be served best by a veto.