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Bill would allow schools to begin before September

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Wisconsin schools would not have to wait until September to start classes, under a bill that two Republicans are proposing.

Mequon Representative Jim Ott and River Hills Senator Alberta Darling are seeking co-sponsors for their measure.

Many rural schools used to open in mid-August, so farm kids could finish their classes in May and help their families with spring planting and field work. That didn’t help tourist businesses, many of which lost their summer help before Labor Day.

So in the late 1990’s, former Governor Tommy Thompson agreed to make schools wait to open until September, unless they held public hearings and passed resolutions to start earlier.

Dozens of schools did just that – so in 2001, former Governor Scott McCallum closed the loophole, and said schools had to prove a hardship to open in August. They didn’t bother.

In 2009, Senate Democrat John Lehman of Racine proposed a bill to abolish the mandatory September start date. That measure went nowhere.