Determining the proper academic calendar to suit the needs of teachers, students, and parents alike is a delicate process for an often struggling public education infrastructure. But how often is public policy determined by public play? In a thoughtful and provocative piece published Monday on Slate, Dahlia Lithwick discusses the intricacies of setting the current academic calendar for public schools in Virginia.
A 1986 legislation that has come to be known as the “King’s Dominion Law” has been strongly supported by entertainment and tourism industry officials with a vested interest in extending summer vacation beyond Labor Day. While the issue periodically resurfaces, Lithwick states that its continued presence is an economic issue:
[…] the money is on the side of the hospitality industry, which claims that the commonwealth loses more money in tourism than it makes up in kids’ test scores. The Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association, which represents Kings Dominion and other amusement parks, contends that shortening the summer tourism season “would forgo spending by about $274 million and decrease wages and benefits by about $104 million.” Last week the director of government affairs for the Association, Katie Hellbbush, clarified that ”We’ve never seen any kind of difference in academic achievement in terms of starting before Labor Day. But studies have shown a distinct change in tourism.”
Studies have shown, the article makes clear, that “a longer school year is better for children.” Perhaps too much play actually is rotting out our brains.