Monday, January 20, 2020
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Md. takes post-Labor Day start to the House

Senate Bill 128, now under consideration in the Maryland General Assembly, seeks to return control of the school calendar to school officials and undo an executive order issued by Gov Larry Hogan that forces schools, with very few exceptions, to start the school year after Labor Day and finish by June 15.

The executive order removed some local control from local school systems by placing control of the school calendar in the hands of the governor, not educators. The change, Mr Hogan said, along with Comptroller Peter Franchot, would be good for businesses in the state’s resorts in Ocean City and Garrett County.

Although some families might visit Ocean City or Deep Creek Lake later in the summer, they were unlikely to spend more days during a given summer at the vacation sites, I argued. The net impact to business would therefore be minimal at best. In other words, I seriously doubted the governor and comptroller were correct about the net (annual) effect on business or tax revenue they predicted would occur, but I saw no problem, except for the loss of local control, with setting the school start date to be after Labor Day.

The executive order would also, the governor said, allow families to spend more time together over the summer. I found that argument nonsensical, since quality family time is usually time spent close to home. But my doubts about “family time” weren’t as strong as my doubts about the net impact the order would have on business revenue and taxes.

The order would also reverse the school calendar creep, which had schools providing numerous days off for students during the school year but starting ever earlier in August, Mr Hogan argued.

At first, Voxitatis opposed the executive order, and then I talked to several students across the state. Anecdotally, I can say that about half the students said they liked the idea and the other half didn’t, saying they usually couldn’t wait till school started in the fall and they’d had enough of summer by mid-August.

A task force voted 12-3 in favor of the post-Labor Day start, and poll after poll, Mr Hogan points out, shows that more than 60 percent of voters in Maryland are in favor of the post-Labor Day start. As far as I know, pollsters have never asked people whether they favor the government stepping in to dictate school calendars or allowing local school systems to make their own calendars.

And educators were never in favor it, including the vast majority of superintendents in the state. I thought there might be a quiet brilliance about the executive order, but in the end, it takes too much control for operations away from school leaders.

Mr Hogan has said he wants to put the question on the ballot if the General Assembly passes the bill. He’ll need several thousand signatures to do that, but the state Senate voted 32-14 today to pass it. SB 128 now moves on to the House of Delegates, and if it passes there, Mr Hogan can be expected to veto the bill. The General Assembly, however, has a super-majority of Democrats, which could override the veto, notwithstanding any ballot question on the matter.

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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