Wednesday, August 12, 2020
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How to keep summer long and strong

In a column for the Naperville Sun, Bill Mego says it’s terrible that schools dictate when summer starts and ends and the dates when communities and—more importantly—families can share memory-making times together.

It’s a myth, he says, “that if kids aren’t in school, their little minds will rot like fruit left in the sun. That’s not true, of course. These days, a kid can get any kind of education he or she wants, often without leaving their living room.”

As a consequence, most summer activities happen in the second half of June and in July because high school activities are already beginning Aug. 1. … The years when families can spend the nice weather doing things together are very short, and when they’re gone, they’re gone forever. I just think it’s a shame families can’t spend the entire summer together having fun and making memories.

As readers of these pages know, I have a different perspective on this, since Gov Larry Hogan, Republican of Maryland, issued an executive order earlier this year that public schools in the state can’t start their year before Labor Day unless they get a special waiver. Not only is the order expected to stimulate business in vacation sites like Ocean City, but it was also designed to let families spend more time together during summer before the kids have to go back to school.

I don’t expect a similar executive order to come from Gov Bruce Rauner in Illinois, who’s also a Republican, but I will say that the people in Maryland overwhelmingly supported Mr Hogan’s move, showing in two separate and independent polls something like 70 percent support.

Almost every school superintendent in the state was against the executive order, but as opposed to Illinois, which has more than 850 independent taxing authorities in its school districts, Maryland has only 24 public school districts and 24 superintendents just don’t make that much noise. School districts don’t levy taxes in Maryland, as the money they receive comes from the county government, not directly from taxpayers. Although it doesn’t take much to beat the school funding picture in Illinois, the independence of school districts in Illinois is certainly greater than it is in Maryland.

But after that, all the superintendents except two made calendars this fall that started after Labor Day, as the governor had ordered. People are watching the results closely, both from a business perspective and an educational perspective, but here we are, with still a full month of summer left.

I’m in Arizona right now, finishing up some work for my employer, the Maryland State Department of Education, and I heard on the radio that this coming weekend is the “last weekend of freedom” for families in Gilbert, just southeast of Phoenix. The temps here last week, on my car thermometer, were between 100 and 110 degrees every day.

The school buildings are air-conditioned, of course, but the same principle applies. If people want to get out of the heat during August, they can’t, because kids have to get back to school in the first week of August.

I once said of Mr Hogan’s order that there was a nascent brilliance to it. And I’m with Mr Mego in his opinion: summer is way too short, and the trend is to make it shorter. Soon classes will start, as they do in a few states in the South, in July. Someone should push it the other way, despite the fact that many kids can’t wait to get back to school.

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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