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If you think that big government has stuck their nose into your business, wait till you see what the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association is proposing.

Arizona hotel operators want families to take an end-of-summer vacation – and, hopefully, fill their empty rooms.

Kristen Jarnigan, spokeswoman for the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association, said her industry is weighing legislation that would require all public schools to start their academic year at the same time. More to the point, the law would forbid schools from starting back up before Labor Day.

“It extends the holiday season,” she said. “You get in that Labor Day weekend where everyone does that one last hurrah getaway that pumps millions of dollars of tax revenues into the budget in tourism tax dollars.”

More to the point for her industry, it also would fill empty rooms and the cash registers of resorts, hotels and motels.

Lucy Messing, president of the Tucson Education Association, said Arizona schools used to start after Labor Day. “But we’re about education,” she said. “We certainly should not be run by the hotel lobby.”

District spokeswoman Kathy Bareiss said a calendar option that would start classes after Labor Day was considered, but was not as popular among parents as the calendar with an earlier start date and a one-week break in October.

Even Tom Horne, the state superintendent of public instruction, said the idea makes no sense.

Jarnigan, however, said there are lots of good reasons to consider adjusting the school year.

She said there is evidence that August, when most schools start up now, is at least marginally hotter than June. She cited figures showing the average high in August at 102.4 degrees, versus just 102 degrees for June.

One complicating factor is some schools – like Chandler and Queen Creek unified school districts and a number of charter schools – run on a year-round calendar, based at least in part on the educational theory that students lose too much ground when they’ve got too much time between classes.

“They would also need to be included in the discussion,” Jarnigan said, before the Legislature mandates a universal start date.

Terry Locke, spokesman for the Chandler district, said the calendar proposed by the hotel association would be very unpopular in Chandler, where the current modified year-round calendar has a 93 percent approval rating from parents.

Horne said having a uniform, state-mandated start date would overrule such local control. What it also would do, Horne said, is provoke anger.

“You learn from bitter experience not to mess with the calendar committee,” said Horne, who served on the Paradise Valley Unified School District governing board for 24 years.

“One year we changed it,” Horne recalled of his board. “And we got so much hostility for that, that we learned never to change that again.”

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