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Florida bill may set school start date

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., March 7 (UPI) -- A bill in the Florida Legislature would make the public school year across the state start no earlier than a week before Labor Day.

Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Aventura, and Rep. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, co-authors of the bill, say the recent trend of early August school starts hurts both kids and the tourism industry.

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Despite the traditional summer break ending of Labor Day, school districts in Florida are using an earlier start to prepare students for standardized testing, The Miami Herald reports. Classes in Miami-Dade and Broward, for instance, started Aug. 8, 2005.

Hundreds of other people protested a Broward schools meeting in February that would have set the start date in early August again.

Margolis' and Gelber's bill would outlaw a start date earlier than a week before Labor Day.

Wayne Blanton, head of the Florida School Boards Association, echoed many who think the start date should be left up to a local decision.

But parents not wanting to cut short vacations or conflict with children's summer camps, want to ensure a later date.

The move also has support from the state's restaurant and hotel groups and a lobbyist for Busch Gardens and Walt Disney World.

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The bill still needs to be reconciled in both houses but Gelber says he thinks there is enough support from both parties and the governor to see it through.

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