Testimony on SB 271
Senate Education Committee
March 28, 2017
Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. My name is Deanna Richeson, President/CEO of the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association (MLTA). I’m here to respectfully testify against SB 271 on behalf of the thousands of lodging and tourism stakeholders we represent.
Our industry opposes repeal of Michigan’s law requiring schools to open after Labor Day for the following reasons:
Research shows Michigan’s post-Labor Day school law (PLDS) has dramatically increased hotel occupancy levels which experts consider an excellent overall barometer of total tourism outcomes.
Last summer, MLTA commissioned an economic impact study of the impact that PLDS has had on our industry. The study was conducted by the Anderson Economic Group and found that in just two short years following the statute’s enactment into law, that hotel revenue levels had increased by over $20 million.
In the years since that impact has only grown, as increasing numbers of Michigan families seized the opportunity to vacation in the latter weeks of August.
Interestingly, we were surprised that the study found that the greatest benefit of PLDS was felt by lodging and tourism operators in Southeastern Michigan. So, Michigan’s PLDS statute benefits major metropolitan areas and not only Northern resort destinations. Clearly, the beneficial impact of this statute is far greater than many imagined.
Michigan’s PLDS law is supported by 64% of Michigan voters
Parents want the opportunity to make family vacation memories during the two most predictably hot months of the year, July and all of August.
MLTA has polled Michigan voters almost every year since the law went into effect. Those polls have consistently found landslide voter support for this statute. Obviously, when Michigan families travel, they help grow tourism jobs and tax revenues to the state.
We oppose SB 271 because July and August represent the top two highest revenue producing months for Michigan tourism business owners.
In repealing PLDS, SB 271 would eliminate a large portion of August revenues, leading to industry-wide layoffs, higher unemployment, and decreased tax receipts to the state.
This is akin to the Legislature taking action that would harm revenue production for auto manufacturers. As this state’s third largest industry, we find the loss of two to three weeks of peak season revenues an appalling legislative proposal.
We respectfully ask that you seriously consider its impact on small business job providers before taking committee action on this bill.
We oppose SB 271 because there are also important workforce development issues involved with the repeal of Michigan’s PLDS law.
With rising wage pressures caused by CPI attachment to the minimum wage, it’s becoming more difficult for business owners to justify hiring inexperienced students. This disincentive, combined with employer knowledge that many students will go back to school during peak season, will result in many high school students simply not being hired for summer jobs.
That means many young, entry-level job applicants will lose the chance to earn money for college and will also miss the opportunity to acquire career skills such as dependability and teamwork, which will serve them for a lifetime.
MLTA has listened to concerns raised by educators and believe there are ways to make this law work better for everybody.
Educators keep pointing out that the United States lags other countries in the number of days of instruction and that our country needs to step up to meet this competitive challenge. We agree.
In the interest of advancing student outcomes, MLTA supports language that allows those schools that offer 195 or more days of instruction to waive the PLDS statute.
Secondly, educators are claiming that they can’t comply with the PLDS statute because the state recently increased the mandate for the number of days of instruction from 175 to 180 days.
To address this concern, we support returning to the standard that was in place when the parent-supported, post-Labor Day school start first became law.We support returning to the 2005 state standard that required 180 days of instruction, or it’s equivalent of 1,098 hours of instruction.
In providing such flexibility, schools could add 20 minutes to the length of their instructional day and thereby reduce the length of their school year by up to two weeks.Gently increasing the duration of the school day would not only enable schools to open after Labor Day, but would also reduce operational costs, saving taxpayers millions of dollars.
Happily, the easiest way for school districts to meet the requirement to open after Labor Day requires no statutory change whatsoever.
Schools can easily implement Year Round School (YRS) schedules by starting school after Labor Day and simply ending the school year closer to the end of June.
Polling data and experience demonstrate that Michigan parents don’t travel as much in June. Those that do tend to head south where the weather will be more predictably warm.
The reality is that the majority of schools that have adopted YRS schedules are concluding their school year in late May or early June. There is no substantive reason schools can’t close the year later in June.
Unfortunately, the real reason for the push to start school in August is high school sports. Respectfully, you’re considering an important policy decision that favors high school sports against the Michigan businesses that fuel our economy and help pay for schools in the first place. There are important issues and economic impacts that warrant deeper examination before judgments are made.
In closing, our industry opposes repeal of Michigan’s post-Labor Day school law because doing so will do great damage to our industry, including hotels, golf courses, campgrounds, CVBs, restaurants, tourist attractions, marinas, and many other industry segments.
Repealing PLDS goes against the will of Michigan voters and will lead to great reductions in economic activity, necessary and widespread layoffs, and reduction of tax revenues to the State.
For all these reasons, Mr. Chairman, we are asking you to forestall any vote on SB 271 until such time that this committee is granted additional time to assess the impact repeal of PLDS would have on our industry and the over 214,000 Michigan residents we employ.
Thank you for consideration of these concerns. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.