A bill to allow Maine teens to work more than 20 hours a week during the school year is not in the state's best interest and should not pass.
The legislation would benefit the state's hospitality industry, which is an important part of our economy.
But more important to our future is having a well-educated work force, and this bill stands in direct conflict with that goal.
Under the current law, 16- and 17-year-olds may work a maximum of 20 hours per week when school is in session. On school days, students can work no more than four hours a day and only until 10 p.m.
Sen. Debra Plowman's bill would add 12 hours to the maximum schedule, meaning a youngster could work 32 hours per week, just one shift short of a full-time job.
It also would allow school students to work six-hour days, and up until 11 p.m.
Plowman and Gov. Paul LePage originally wanted to remove all hourly limitations.
They see the 32-hour week as a good compromise, but we do not.
Former Delaware Gov. Jack Markell had an interesting column in Friday's Washington Post.
Markell said he had visited hundreds of businesses during his years as governor and asked them all one question: "What can I do to facilitate (your) success?"
The answer he heard most: Improve education.
Maine can do a lot to improve its tax and regulatory climate to help existing businesses or attract new ones.
But none of that matters if businesses cannot find qualified employees to do the work. This is especially true if Maine hopes to compete for higher-paying jobs in the knowledge economy.
Maine taxpayers pour hundreds of millions of dollars a year into their educational system. We expect and deserve results.
But that money is wasted on a child who is drowsy or has no time for homework.
Working 32 hours a week also makes it unlikely or impossible for a child to participate in after-school enrichment activities like sports, band or theater.
Under this proposal, some students would be spending more time on the job than in the classroom, and that's just not right.
Then there is simple biology. Research shows that teenage bodies need more sleep than adults, on average 9.25 hours per night. That is simply impossible when a teen gets home after 11 p.m.
Teens who are working 32 hours a week and until 11 p.m. on school days will not be at their best during school hours.
We do believe that holding a part-time job is educational. Students learn from their evening and summer jobs important lessons about hard work and customer service.
But a young person's primary job must remain preparing for the future and maximizing their potential.
That is best done by spending more hours in the classroom than in the workplace.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.