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Petition pushing for later school start approved

BISMARCK -- The group pushing to change state law to require that public schools start after Labor Day can now begin to collect signatures to send the issue to a statewide vote.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger approved the sponsoring committee's petition Friday, kick-starting the committee's efforts to collect the mandatory 13,452 signatures to put it on the ballot.

The group will need to collect the signatures by Aug. 6 to place it on the November general election ballot.

"We're going to go and work hard until we get them all signed and turned in," said Kelly Heinert, co-chair of the sponsoring committee.

The group is planning an online meeting Sunday to make sure the 25 sponsoring committee members understand the rules for collecting signatures and decide what their next move will be.

"We don't want any issues like those that have happened in the last couple of years," Heinert said. "We want to make sure we follow the rules correctly."

Two ballot initiatives were thwarted in 2012 when fraudulent signatures were submitted.

Heinert said each committee member will be responsible to find 10 to 15 volunteers to help collect signatures.

"I'm hopeful each one of them will get 100 signatures, which is going to be very doable," he said. "They're in all corners of the state, so I don't see this being an issue."

The group says students should not have to be in school during the hot days at the end of August, when school usually starts, and should spend more time with family at the end of summer.

If enacted, North Dakota would join Virginia, Michigan and Minnesota as one of a few states with a post-Labor Day mandate, according to the Minnesota School Boards Association.

A Facebook page, Start ND School After Labor Day, has 6,131 supporters, up from 2,680 a month ago.

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.