We’ve Got Issues: Why do most Michigan schools start after Labor Day? It’s the law

Sep 5, 2017

First-grade teacher Kim Gramzow gives a language arts lesson at Betsie Valley Elementary in Thompsonville.
Credit Morgan Springer

It’s back to school Tuesday for most students in public schools in Michigan. 

The law requires that class begin after Labor Day, although some districts do have waivers from the state to start earlier. In fact, an increasing number of schools are requesting them. 

Critics of the Labor Day rule say kids are falling behind in school because of the later start – and it should be up to districts to decide the calendar. 

Education reporter Emily Richmond has written a story about the issue for the Atlantic.

She says supporters of the law – which has been in effect for more than a decade – argue the rule is good for the economy. 


“Michigan is heavily dependent on its tourism industry,” Richmond says. “There were some concerns about school start times taking time away from family travel and also making it difficult for some of those businesses to staff up.”

A study done by Anderson Economic Group in 2016 says the rule has provided a boost to Michigan’s economy. 

But opponents of the law argue the rule is an impediment to students. They say the delayed start is a problem. 

“The longer students are out of school, the more they actually forget and have to be retaught in the fall. That’s known as the summer slide,” Richmond says. "And the summer slide has been found to hurt the kids who need the learning the most – and that’s underserved groups who come from those low-income families and also a lot of children of color.”

Legislation introduced in the state legislature this spring by Sen. Marty Knollenberg (R-Troy) would end the Labor Day rule.

“Early school start dates won’t kill jobs,” Knollenberg wrote in May. “Families will continue to take summer vacations, just as they do in Florida, California, Texas, New York and other major tourism destinations where local school districts decide when to start.”

The bill is waiting in the state senate.