Friday, August 14, 2020
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Comptroller might ask governor to order schools to start after Labor Day

Despite his best efforts, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot told Montgomery County Media, a statewide legislative effort to force public schools in the state to start the school year after Labor Day appears to be going nowhere in Annapolis, the Bethesda Beat reports.

The typical crossover date in the General Assembly—the day when a bill should have passed at least one chamber and moved to the other if it has any chance of passing—has long since gone, and neither the Senate nor the House of Delegates has taken any action on Mr Franchot’s pet proposed legislation, Senate Bill 455.

This means, most likely, the General Assembly won’t pass a law this year that would force schools to start after Labor Day, no matter how much tourism businesses in the state would benefit from an extra week at the end of summer vacation.

One small problem with the logic here is that students still have to go to school for 180 days. That extra week would have to be taken from somewhere else in the calendar, so if schools were forced to start after Labor Day, students would probably be in school later in June.

Still, the proposal had some popular support:

Local school districts, led by local superintendents, however, generally consider the mandate to be an overreach by state government, taking control of even the school calendar away from local policymakers and educators.

What Mr Franchot said was this: “If it doesn’t pass legislatively, maybe I’ll have a conversation with Governor Hogan about doing it through executive order.”

I am on the record as opposing SB 455, mainly because I don’t think the gain will be worth the costs. So one last time, let’s look at the winners and losers.

The winners

Tourism business, especially in Ocean City and Garrett County, would make more money during August, though they might lose some during the week in June that would have to be added on to the school year. This might be a wash.

Mr Franchot claimed that the state would receive more than $70 million more in tax revenue from the additional economic activity at the end of the summer.

Finally, some proponents of the bill claim that families would benefit by having more time in August to spend together, rather than spending that time together in June.

The losers

High school students taking Advanced Placement courses would lose a week of instruction before their AP exams in May. For most students, this won’t be a huge problem, but it would not be good to be a struggling student in these tough courses and cram for those tests.

Children who benefit from free or reduced-price meals would have to fend for themselves for an extra week in August, unless an amendment were added to provide free lunches and possibly breakfasts for students at public schools, even when school isn’t in session.

Finally, some parents might have to provide another week of daycare for their kids who won’t be in school. Depending on the age of the kids, this could offset any financial gains to businesses that benefit from other families taking an extra week of summer vacation, since childcare expenses are typically deductible.

The bottom line

I don’t support a state mandate to start school after Labor Day. Mostly, we agree with superintendents that the school calendar should be a local, not state-mandated, decision.

But I also sympathize with advanced students, trying to shave a little off their college expenses by taking AP classes in high school, who want to get as much instruction as possible before they have to take their tests. Keep in mind, the plan to reduce college expenses this way doesn’t always work, but at least that’s one intention of taking AP courses.

I’m all for Mr Hogan’s business-friendly approach, but I just don’t see that happening here. Those business owners have kids, too, and those kids could be, just maybe, a little more important to them than a little more money. Besides, for individual families, don’t you think they’ll go to Ocean City and spend as many days there in the summer after this idea comes to fruition than they did before?

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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