The McLean Citizens Association rejected a controversial proposal recently that called for a boycott of Virginia amusement parks to protest the tourism industry's continuing opposition to allowed Fairfax County to open its schools before Labor Day.
A motion calling for the boycott was introduced at MCA's monthly meeting last week and tabled after some members questioned its effectiveness and inherent anti-business message.
The proposal called for school administrators to reduce or eliminate field trips to amusement parks and tourist attractions that have lobbied to uphold the nicknamed “Kings Dominion Law.” This mandate, passed in 1986, prohibits schools from opening before Labor Day as a tactic to protect the state’s tourism industry.
The chairman of the association’s Education and Youth Committee, Ed Saperstein, introduced the proposal at Wednesday’s meeting. He argued that students could maximize their instructional time for standardized tests, if Fairfax schools were allowed to open in late August.
“They (tourism industry) say that changing the starting date of the school year hurts tourism, but Virginia is one of only two states in the U.S. that requires school to start after Labor Day,” Saperstein said. “You’d think that tourism is important for all other states as well.”
Saperstein said amusement parks – including Kings Dominion – have advocated against a repeal because they want high school students to continue at their summer jobs at the tourist facilities through Labor Day weekend. He said the boycott could press the tourism industry to halt its lobbying efforts.
But his arguments were not persuasive enough to convince the majority of the association’s members to vote in favor of the proposed boycott. The suggested resolution was tabled by a 21-6 vote.
One of the strongest critics of the proposal was board member Steve DelBianco. At the meeting, Del Bianco said the resolution could inflict a “negligible hardship” on teachers and parents who would have to find alternative leisure attractions.
“The energy needed for a boycott would be better directed to change the minds of the two senators needed to overturn the bill,” DelBianco said.
The Virginia House of Delegates passed a bill that would have nixed the Kings Dominion Law earlier this year with strong bi-partisan support, but the Senate Education and Health Committee killed it twice on a 6-9 vote.
The repeal’s defeat came after tourism industry representatives testified that moving the first day of school before the holiday weekend would cost the state more than $300 million in lost revenue.
The current law allows school districts to request a waiver from the Virginia Board of Education to start the school year early. Two-thirds of the state’s school districts qualify for waivers, mostly because they have a high number of snow days. Yet, Northern Virginia districts generally are not eligible for an exemption.
Had the boycott proposal passed at Wednesday’s meeting, it would have been a first in the association’s history.