This Week’s Headlines
Hogan tells schools to wait until after Labor Day
By BRUCE HOTCHKISS
OCEAN CITY, Md. (Sept. 6, 2016) — For school children across Maryland, summer will be summer again in 2017.
Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, and Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, gathered a crowd on the boardwalk here last Wednesday where Hogan announced that he would employ his executive powers to mandate that next year all Maryland public schools would not open until after Labor Day.
The announcement effectively ended a three-year initiative by Franchot to “Let Summer Be Summer.”
Legislation offered in previous years to delay school openings until after the annual three-day holiday had failed to get out of committee.
The Executive Order signed by Hogan on the boardwalk will require that Maryland’s public schools begin after Labor Day, complete the 180 days that are required under state law, and adjourn by June 15, beginning with the 2017-18 school year.
The executive order does permit for a waiver to be applied, with the Maryland State Department of Education, to be exempt from the post-Labor Day start date. For the 2017-18 school year and beyond, local school systems will have to apply annually for a waiver based on “compelling justification.”
Franchot has contended that Maryland is sacrificing millions of dollars in revenue by opening schools before the traditional end of the summer school break. Worcester County, where Ocean City is located, is the only county in Maryland, currently to start school after Labor Day.
Many families involved with 4-H and FFA in Maryland applauded Hogan’s mandate as it would allow the youth the opportunity to participate more in the Maryland State Fair without missing school days.
The initiative also has had the backing of the Maryland Farm Bureau which contended that delaying school opening day would allow kids to continue to “help out on the farm and finish summer jobs at local produce stands and farmers markets.”
This year, giving Franchot’s initiative an extra boost, has been the lingering summer heat. Several schools have had to delay bringing the kids back to the classrooms because the buildings do not have air-conditioning.
Pre-Labor Day weather forecasts called for more fall-like temperatures in the days following the holiday weekend.
The initiative to start public schools after Labor Day, which responded to a grassroots effort, kicked off in August 2014 aimed at giving families more summer time together, small businesses an economic boost and teachers a much needed break.
A petition containing 13,000 signatures was presented to members of the Maryland General Assembly at the beginning of the 2015 legislative session.
The “Let Summer Be Summer” campaign resulted from a governor’s task force, which recommended in May 2014 that Maryland public schools delay opening until after Labor Day, while continuing to end the school year in early to mid-June. The state task force, which met for nearly a year to consider the issue, voted 12 to 3 in favor of a later start date statewide.
In August 2013, Franchot released an economic development impact report on a post-Labor Day start for public schools. Completed by the Bureau of Revenue Estimates, the report found that a delayed school start in Maryland would result in an additional $74.3 million in direct economic activity, including $3.7 million in new wages and a separate $7.7 million in state and local revenue.
In signing the executive order, Gov. Hogan said: “Starting Maryland public schools after Labor Day is not just a family issue – it’s an economic and public safety issue that draws clear, strong, bipartisan support among an overwhelming majority of Marylanders.
“Comptroller Franchot and I believe, and the people of Maryland strongly agree, that this Executive Order puts the best interests of Marylanders first, especially the well-being of our students. This action is long overdue, and it is simply the right thing to do.”