Vacation creationism bill introduced in Kentucky

A bill introduced in the Kentucky legislature would extend the duration of summer vacation in order to boost tourism — including to a creationist attraction. Senate Bill 50 (PDF) would "require schools to schedule the first student attendance day no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26, unless a school has adopted a year-round calendar." As NCSE previously reported, the bill's cosponsor Damon Thayer (R-District 17) identified a creationist attraction as a beneficiary, telling the Grant County News (August 12, 2015), "Grant County is set to become a major tourist destination due to the presence of the Ark."

Thayer was referring to Ark Encounter, a Noah's-ark-themed attraction under construction by the young-earth creationist ministry Answers in Genesis, which also operates a "museum" in Kentucky. In 2011, the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority voted to grant tax incentives — in the form of retained sales taxes — to the Ark Encounter project, but that decision was reversed in 2014, as NCSE previously reported. Answers in Genesis and its allies are currently suing the state in federal court over the reversal: the case is Ark Encounter, LLC et al. v. Stewart et al. Preliminary hearings occurred in July 2015.

Educators in Kentucky have reportedly been cool to the idea of the state requiring local schools to start later in the year, citing both the ideal of local control of education and the danger of impairing student learning. Chris Brady, a member of the Jefferson County School Board, told Insider Louisville (August 14, 2015), "Tourism is important to the state, but it's not as important as education. And these decisions are made with the kids' best education interest in mind. I'm sensitive to the fact that we want to boost our tourism, but not at the expense of our kids' education."

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