Published Online: October 22, 1997

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Longer summers

It has become an annual ritual: The House education committee in Michigan regularly rebuffs tourism-industry efforts to delay the opening of the school year until after Labor Day.

But this year, supporters of the change cast tradition aside and took their case to the chamber's tourism committee. The strategy worked. This month, the panel passed a bill that would prohibit schools from opening before Labor Day.

"The Labor Day holiday can be a huge revenue generator for our tourist businesses, but only if schools are open after Labor Day," said Rep. Pat Gagliardi, the Democratic sponsor of the bill.

But Tony Derezinski, the director of government relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, said that such a bill ignores Michigan's 1995 school reform law, which reduced state control over schools. "This bill is totally inconsistent with local control," he said. "You can't have it both ways."

About 83 percent of the state's schools now begin their year before Labor Day. School officials say the bill would force them to keep their doors open longer, possibly through the end of June.

While Gov. John Engler, a Republican, has said that he would sign the bill, Mr. Derezinski, a former state senator, doubts the bill's chances of passing in the Senate.

"The principle of it is to help tourism," he added. "But it goes against the kids it regulates."

More uniforms

A lot more of Pennsylvania's 1.8 million public school students could be in uniforms next fall.

Under a bill sponsored by Sen. James J. Rhoades, the Republican chairman of his chamber's education committee, local school boards would be given the authority to set mandatory uniform policies. Schools would not be required, however, to set such policies.

The Senate committee passed the bill 11-0 earlier this month. Republican Gov. Tom Ridge has said that he would sign the legislation. The House education committee passed a similar bill earlier this year, although the full chamber has not acted on the proposal.

The current education code allows school boards to approve voluntary student-uniform policies. Only a handful of schools have such programs.

Nationally, 10 states let districts mandate uniforms. And some, including California, require districts to subsidize the uniform costs for needy students. Pennsylvania would not require such aid.

--ROBERT C. JOHNSTON

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