Aug. 11, 2011. That is when Griffith students returned to school. Can you imagine? The economic impact of earlier and earlier school start dates has negative consequences on our families, local businesses and the hospitality industry.
By now, more than 100,000 students have returned to the classrooms in Lake County alone. Most of us remember the post-Labor Day start of the school year. Allow me to outline a few of the dramatic truths about starting school on Aug. 11:
• Precious and decreasing financial resources are wasted cooling schools during the hottest month. These are hundreds of thousands of dollars that could be invested in classrooms. How do we stand idly by watching school boards gut programs and increase costs for school activities, all the while wasting money cooling schools?
• There is no correlation to earlier school starts and academic performance. None.
• Aug. 11 school start dates are job killers. Our kids who actually have summer jobs get their earnings diminished, and the valuable experience and ethics gained through work are reduced.
• Our limited summer is cut even shorter. Beaches, water parks and attractions reduce their hours. The opportunity to sell those assets to travelers is dramatically reduced as families from other states no longer consider Indiana travel. Families in Indiana also stop traveling within Indiana. Most of the students in Indiana cannot attend the State Fair.
• School funding has now shifted to the state, so school boards need to realize they have a vested interest in helping businesses of all types increase revenues and adopt policies that nurture economic growth. When travel to Indiana is reduced, so are casino and park admission fees, sales taxes and hotel taxes. School districts continue to operate in a vacuum with no regard for the impact school start dates have on the hospitality industry and families of the South Shore.
• Families value travel and the learning experiences and memories summer vacations create.
• Earlier starts create more problems for the South Shore's employers as each school district has resulting different breaks and in-services, wreaking havoc on household and employer schedules.
I have presented information to school boards in Northwest Indiana. Some like Merrillville, understand the need to be sensitive to the hospitality industry and the greater economy of Indiana as their money now comes from the state. Sadly, most others school boards were disinterested.
I urge every parent who wants his or her summers back to get involved. Attend your next school board meeting and ask what the utility bills were for August. Make your desires known. Call your legislators. Go to www.savindianasummers.org and become part of the movement.
Speros Batistatos is president/CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.