ST. JOHN | The leader of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority weighed in Monday on an effort to urge Lake Central officials to push back the first day of school.
Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of the visitors authority, was joined by a group of parents opposed to Lake Central School Corp.'s Aug. 15 start date.
Batistatos supports a uniform school start date in Lake County. He has worked the past four years to urge legislators to approve a bill setting the first day of school for the day after Labor Day.
School systems no longer are funded by property tax dollars, but by sales tax revenue, he said at the meeting.
“Whether I book the Little League national championships here or Indianapolis books the Super Bowl, the sales tax dollars end up right back here,” Batistatos said.
An early or mid-August school start date “is bad for my business," he said.
"It stops families from traveling around Indiana,” Batistatos said.
Another economic hit comes from the loss of summer staff, which causes attractions to close early.
“I have to shut down the beaches and the water park because I don’t have kids to staff them,” Batistatos said.
Teenage employees also lose income they could earned, he said. In Indiana, that totals $177.28 million in lost employee paychecks, he said.
Other statistics Batistatos cited include $473.36 million in lost tourist spending, $41.20 million in lost state taxes and $11.83 million in lost local, city and county taxes.
Batistatos and others spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. The School Board has not yet considered a proposed district calendar for the 2013-14 school year.
At the board’s Sept. 4 meeting, parents wore T-shirts emblazoned with the message “Save LC Summers." Some at that meeting spoke against the district's start date. Several dozen of them returned to hear Batistatos speak Monday.
Batistatos asked to be provided with statistics that show the early school start raises test scores.
“I’m a data kind of guy,” he said during his presentation.
Two Lake Central seniors, who are enrolled in advanced placement classes, provided some of that data during their presentation.
Anthony Giazzon, 17, and Kathryn Toth, 18, both of Schererville, told the board that high schools in Carmel and Avon that start early report passing AP test scores that exceed the state average of 25 percent. Those tests are only given in May.
With less time in class, AP students at Lake Central have an 18.1 percent passing rate by comparison, Giazzon said.
“An earlier start date helps students in AP classes,” Toth said. “It’s all about your scores. If I pass, it can translate into college credit.”
Passing a $50 AP test can “get you out of a couple-thousand-dollar class in college,” Giazzon said.
Jennifer Barnes, of Schererville, countered that all students need to be considered and that families lose time together when summer is cut short by the return to school.
Board President George Marshall said trustees will take all comments under advisement.