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Cookson stalls additional school hours bill until committee can agree to his school start date bill

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — House Education Committee Chairman Steve Cookson, R- Fairdealing, has chosen not to have an executive session of his committee to vote on a bill that would raise the minimum hours public schools without the committee also accepting his legislation that would require public schools to start no later than September 1 and end my May 31.

Rep. Steve Cookson, R-Fairdealing
Rep. Steve Cookson, R-Fairdealing

“There will be no new school calendar legislation leaving my committee until the school start date change is included,” said Cookson, who is a former school superintendent.

Increasing the school start date was a proposal Gov. Jay Nixon included in this state of the state address in January. However, Rep. Lyle Rowland, R-Cedarcreek, who is also a former school superintendent, pre-filed HB 43 which would increase the hour requirement to 1073. His bill was referred to the House Education Committee on January 17, but since then no action has been taken.

Cookson filed HB 1016 on April 2. The legislation would raise the hour requirement to 1078 hours, and included the school start date and end requirement. It was referred to the Education Committee on the April 18 and a hearing was held on April 24.

“I do not intend on execing the bill I sponsored out until we are all on the same page about the hour increases and the school start date together,” said Cookson.

While opponents of the bill tout local control issues, tourism interests have long advocated for the schools to begin after Labor Day and end before Memorial Day.

“An across the board uniform school start date for all Missouri schools would have a positive impact on tourism within the state,” said Chip Mason, Director of Government Relations for Herschend Family Entertainment. “And it would not help as much for the schools to get out earlier in the year as it would to start later, say after Labor Day. Better weather in August as compared to May or June.”

Cookson does have other school reforms in mind besides changing the hours and the start date. He also intends to move legislation that would require students who are not found to be proficient to attend summer school.

“We have to help students who are not proficient. The chance to catch up and summer school is a perfect opportunity to do that,” said Cookson.

To contact Scott Faughn, email scott@themissouritimes.com, or via Twitter at @scottfaughn.