10:51 AM EST, January 27, 2011
UPDATED: 8:45 p.m.
A bill that would allow Roanoke City schools to start before Labor Day is showing signs of life in Richmond.
The bill passed a House Education sub-committee today on a vote of 4 to 3, a hurdle the legislation hasn't cleared in recent years.The measure is now headed to the full Education Committee.
Chairman David Carson is fighting what's often called the Kings Dominion law. It requires school systems to get a waiver from the state if they want to start before Labor Day.
Right now, Roanoke City is required to start after Labor Day.
Delegate Bill Cleaveland of Botetourt County has introduced a bill that will allow a school system like Roanoke to start school before Labor Day if a surrounding school division already has a waiver because of a certain number of snow days. Roanoke County already does.
Similar bills have been introduced in past years but they've never made it out of the House Education subcommittee because of strong opposition from Virginia's hospitality and tourism industries.
David Carson, told News 7 "at one point do we decide what is best for children, is it so a person in the hospitality industry can make an extra buck or are we truly trying to decide what's best for the education for our kids, it's just that simple."
If the change was made for Roanoke, it wouldn't extend the school year. Carson says Roanoke will follow a similiar schedule to other nearby districts. It would also feel like a college semester where students take their final examples before holiday break. Right now, Roanoke students take them after the break.
Virginia's Travel and Tourism Industry says it has conducted a survey showing that pre-Labor Day school openings statewide would result in $369 million in lost wages and tourist spending as well as a $14 million drop in state tax collections.
Delegate Bill Cleaveland tells News 7 he doesn't feel his bills will hurt the tourism industry one nickel. "If the committee listens to the facts, there is no logical reason this bill should not go through," said Cleaveland.
Del. Cleaveland acknowledges getting the bill out of committee will be tough but he says "politics shouldn't negatively impact the students in our area."
The Education House subcommittee is scheduled to hear the bills Thursday at 5 P.M.
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