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iTIP, as the statewide association devoted to supporting Iowa’s travel and hospitality sector, plays a pivotal role in advocating for policies that benefit our industry. I bring to your attention a critical issue that requires our collective voice and action: the proposed changes to Iowa’s school start date.

In preparation for the 2024 Legislative Session, iTIP conducted a comprehensive poll of our membership to identify key priorities for the year. The overwhelming sentiment among our members is a stance in favor of maintaining the existing Iowa school start date law of August 23.

There have been 5 bills introduced to propose changes to Iowa’s current school start date law of August 23. Two of the bills have passed through the first funnel and remain a concern for the tourism industry.

Bills still a concern (as of February 16, 2024)

  1. HSB 585 (will receive a new number) – An Act modifying the earliest possible start date of the school calendar for school districts and accredited nonpublic schools.
    • Education recommends passage (Jan 30)
    • Bill allowed to be discussed during debate on the House floor.
  2. SF 2368 (formerly SSB 3157) – An Act relating to education by establishing a right of first refusal for charter schools to purchase or lease school district property and modifying charter school and open enrollment funding, charter school board member requirements, and the school start date.
    • Education recommends passage (Feb 14)
    • Bill allowed to be discussed during debate on the Senate floor.

 

Bills no longer a concern (as of February 16, 2024)

  1. HF 2543 (formerly HSB 673) – A bill for an act relating to education by establishing a right of first refusal for charter schools to purchase or lease school district property and modifying charter school and open enrollment funding, charter school board member requirements, and the school start date.
    • Education recommends passage of HSB 673. Now bill HF 2543 with the removal of school start date language.
  2. HSB 603 – An Act modifying the earliest possible start date of the school calendar for school districts and accredited nonpublic schools.
  3. SF 2010 – An Act modifying the earliest possible start date of the school calendar for school districts and accredited nonpublic schools.

Changing Iowa’s school start date negatively impacts tourism. Each day schools start earlier, it reduces the number of visitors to our state in August, resulting in decreased consumer spending and lower state tax revenues. Millions in state sales tax revenue, including crucial local option sales tax for school improvements, will be lost each day schools start earlier. The school start date conversation is more than saving impacts to a few large attractions in the state. This legislation impacts the entire industry.

Our data, collected from Arrivalist and Tourism Economics, indicates a significant economic impact. During the last two weeks of July 2023, Iowa welcomed 2.2 million visitors, compared to 1.8 million during the last two weeks of August. This translates to 128,571 visitors per day in August, spending $22.36 million daily. Moving the school start date just four days earlier could result in an alarming loss of $89.4 million in visitor spending.

In a time when schools are seeking increased funding, losing out on the collection of visitor dollars, which contributes to state and local taxes, is detrimental. Additionally, an earlier school start date results in substantial revenue and job losses for major attractions, including water parks, amusement parks, golf courses, lodging properties, state parks, restaurants, and youth sports tournaments.

We urge you to take immediate action by reaching out to your local elected officials and conveying how an earlier school start would directly impact your community. Let them know that maintaining the August 23 school start date is crucial for sustaining our industry and the economic well-being of Iowa.

In addition to this urgent matter, iTIP has identified other top priorities for the 2024 Legislative Session:

Your involvement and advocacy are instrumental in preserving the health and prosperity of Iowa’s tourism and hospitality industry. Together, let’s ensure our voices are heard, and our industry continues to thrive.

 

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