By Emily Metheny
With more and more schools starting their fall semesters earlier, students participating in the Indiana State Fair would have had to make a choice to attend classes or take part in the fair unexcused from school. But under a new law, those absences will be excused.
Senate Bill 114, authored by Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, allows students to miss up to five days of classes to participate or go with family members who are participating in the Indiana State Fair.
"I think kids learn a great deal through 4-H and FFA, so we have to make sure we don't lose that as a learning opportunity for these kids," Leising said. She said approximately 16, 000 kids participate in 4-H and FFA.
"There has been a big push for balanced calendars, which means that kids will end up starting school earlier, usually around the first of August and they end up having five to six weeks in the summer," Leising said. "With that happening and local affairs, there is no way for them to bring the state fair date any earlier than it is because the kids that are actually showing their projects and animals at the local fair would not be ready for the State Fair."
The new law formalizes the absences around the state because, in the past, there were "pockets of schools" that excused the students, said Andy Klotz, director of public relations for the Indiana State Fair Commission.
"I think that it's unfortunate that, from my perspective, that we have gone to that school calendar, but we have. It's not under the state; it's under locals that have made that decision," Leising said.
Leising said a few years ago, some legislators tried to pass a law that regulated the school start dates, but it did not gain enough support because other lawmakers did not believe the legislature should have that power over the schools.
"They will just have to show attendance at the fair and it will not show on their record," Klotz said.
To get the absences excused, the students must be in good standing, and have both their parents and school principal sign off on the days they will be at the fair, Leising said.
Leising said the original bill she proposed had only offered three excused absences but the House extended it to five for families that needed time for travel.
Klotz said he expects the law to help students that live in rural areas that are not near the fair to be able to participate.
Emily Metheny is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.