KDLT Exaggerates Labor Market Impact of Later School Year Finish

KDLT overtags its story on the impact of the “late” starts and finishes to the Sioux Falls school year. Last year, Sioux Falls school district voters chose to reduce its school year’s overlap with cultural summer, starting after Labor Day instead of in the middle of August and ending June 3. Now KDLT reports that “Kids kept in school longer means area businesses struggle for employees.”

Businesses—plural? Ricky Cody puts two businesses on screen. Wild Water West sounds like it’s handling the labor availability issue just fine:

Wild Water West in Sioux Falls, for example, will be the place to be once Mother Nature gives us a week full of sunshine. But, while we wait in eager, anticipation, Emily McNamara is worried if she will even have enough lifeguards to fill the 70 chairs there.

“Our training dates have just shifted, we shifted some times, and plan to do a couple hours to accommodate those students that are still in class, but we think everything is going to work out great,” she said [Ricky Cody, “Seasonal Businesses Eagerly Await Summer Recess,” KDLT, 2016.05.17].

B&G Milky Way is more clearly struggling, but as much because of the generally tight labor market as the new school year:

“I’m just here by myself,” said B & G Milky Way franchise owner, Bruce Bettmeng.

Bettmeng relies on high school students to staff his two stores in the area. He’s been forced to work countless shifts, shifts that would normally be filled by high school students.

“I’m here because there’s no high schoolers available, and even generally speaking with unemployment in Sioux Falls it’s hard to find somebody,” he added [Cody, 2016.05.17].

So that’s one business, singular, struggling, and even that business says the problem is bigger than the school year. Plus, this story ignores the fact that any labor shortage caused by changing the school year doesn’t create a new problem but only shifts an existing problem. Previously, the Sioux Falls school year left amusement parks, ice cream shops, and other summer businesses short-staffed during the last halcyon days of summer in late August and early September. Now seasonal employers in Sioux Falls miss out on their teen labor force during the first week of cultural summer but get to keep them through those final weeks up to Labor Day. Given that May is cooler and rainier than August in Sioux Falls, starting and ending school later would seem to make more teens available for summer employers on better days for business.

Our public schools should not arrange education around the needs of our capitalist exploiters. But scheduling summer vacation around American cultural summer should have no net negative impact on the effort to staff water parks and drive-ins. Starting school after Labor Day may even give some young workers more sunny days to make a buck.

19 Responses to KDLT Exaggerates Labor Market Impact of Later School Year Finish

  1. Nick Nemec

    I would rather go swimming and have an after swim ice cream in August than May.

  2. It might be worth noting that Wild Water West was the primary driving force (providing the bulk of the funding) to adjust the start date of school, so I’m quite sure they are happy with the results as it means more warm summer days to sell tickets and concessions.

    That being said, there are “now hiring” signs up at almost every fast food chain and retail store in Sioux Falls right now – the labor market is very tight and there is a shortage of applicants for part time summer help. WWW and B&G will likely be fine (after all – those are coveted summer jobs), but McDonalds and Burger King might struggle a bit more than usual.

  3. These businesses are getting hit with the double whammy. These same kids who will be working as temporary workers this summer are less likely to be working there permanently after high school precisely because of the longer school year.

  4. mike from iowa

    Is there any noticeable savings in air conditioning bills for schools with a later starting time? That is one complaint I have often heard it is too hot in mid-August to force confinement of kids.

  5. Lanny V Stricherz

    Don’t let the guy from B&G cause you to shed too many tears. That is the same jerk that in spite of the fact that he can afford to take several months off in the winter, was all blown away because the voters wanted to raise the minimum wage. And why doesn’t he have any workers and is waiting for the high schoolers? Because he can pay them the lesser minimum wage that the legislature granted him last year. He will have no such problem after this years’ election because the voters will overturn the legislature’s dimwitted action from a year ago.

  6. @spencer

    What? “These kids are less likely to be working a summer job permanently after high school because of the longer school year.” Last I checked summer employment was not a permanent job. Both places featured aren’t even open year round. It’s a shift in the work schedule, the same problem at a different time of year. This time of year is slow, very slow, for weather dependent business.

  7. Super Sweet

    Wild Water and other such establisments rely on school age kids for their business as well, so where are their customers coming from?

  8. mfi: the air conditioning argument hasn’t been shown to be a factor either pro or con. This is because there are teachers, administrators, support and maintenance staff in those buildings even when students aren’t so they are often required to keep the AC on regardless. The time it takes to cool large structure also makes it impractical to shut off the AC for short periods – so they keep on running. There could be small differences, but not enough to justify a change either direction.

  9. Lanny reminds us of the basic market point on how to get workers: pay them, and they will come.

    Super Sweet also reminds us that those businesses need the help most when school is out, either after school during the year or during the summer break. Kids should be available.

  10. Spencer, did SF lengthen the school year at all? I was of the impression they simply shifted it later.

  11. Craig, thanks for that reminder! Wild Water West and the Visitor Industry Alliance (which backed a 2006 statewide later-school-start measure) didn’t spend much on the ballot question, maybe under five figures. But yes, Wild Water West wanted it. They said last August the Labor Day start date allowed them to stay open longer and make more money. KDLT should know this: they interviewed the same marketing manager, Emily McNamara, who noted last August that kids from other districts that started early didn’t mind coming to work after school.

  12. There are many in Sioux Falls who have stopped buying their ice cream treats from the B&G because of what the owner is doing to the kids working for him. He now pays them the lowered pay rate so the kids can’t even make enough to justify working for him. The kids who worked there often caused their family and friends to frequent the ice cream joint. As more family and friends realize the screw job the girls (remember it is only girls hired) are being ripped off they no longer want to anything to do with the B&G.

    Since the current ownership decided to screw the kids over, it is a first job to see what it is like and then they leave as soon as they find a paying job. B&G has to say good-bye to more workers and customers. B&G has to realize their policies of ripping off the girls only young staff is a way to kill a long loved institution in Sioux Falls.

  13. Bruce, what’s that pay differential? Didn’t the owner hear we stopped the youth minimum wage?

  14. Lanny V Stricherz

    Not yet we haven’t. It is on the ballot again this fall Cory. That was my point. He is waiting until the kids are out of school to have the help he needs because then he will only have to pay the youth minimum wage.

  15. No, Lanny, he can’t pay kids or anyone else under $8.55 an hour. Our referendum suspended 2015 SB 171. Right now, there is no youth minimum wage.

  16. Lanny V Stricherz


    The South Dakota Youth Minimum Wage Referendum, Referred Law 20 is on the November 8, 2016 ballot in South Dakota as a veto referendum. The measure, upon voter approval, would uphold Senate Bill 177 (SB 177), a law decreasing the minimum wage for workers under age 18 from $8.50 to $7.50. SB 177 would also provide that the youth minimum wage is not pegged to inflation.[1]

  17. Lanny V Stricherz

    Okay, so I am a little dense. By getting the referral done before June 29, 2015 the Senate bill 177 never went into effect. Now we need to make sure that everyone understands to vote no on Referred law 20

  18. Lanny, you’re not the only voter who may not understand all the ins and outs of all ten ballot measures, especially our two referred laws. We need to get everyone to understand that it’s NO on 19 and 20.

    Now just how much is B&G’s owner paying his teen workers?

  19. Lanny V Stricherz

    I don’t know. Apparently they have not started working yet and I did not hear what he paid them last year.