Ho­gan tight­ens school waivers

Sec­ond ex­ec­u­tive or­der lim­its boards’ free­dom to grant

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Liz Bowie and Car­rie Wells

Gov. Larry Ho­gan is­sued a sec­ond ex­ec­u­tive or­der Tues­day that makes it dif­fi­cult for school sys­tems to avoid start­ing school after La­bor Day by seek­ing a waiver.

The or­der comes after the state board was of­fer­ing waivers from Ho­gan’s man­date and as many lo­cal school of­fi­cials protested, say­ing they wanted to re­tain con­trol over their school cal­en­dars.

In his new or­der, Ho­gan said that only schools that are char­ters, low per­form­ing or at risk may ap­ply for a waiver from the Maryland state school board, and only if they have an “in­no­va­tive school sched­ule” that re­quires them to be open dur­ing the sum­mer.

The or­der also said school dis­tricts may seek a waiver if they have been closed for bad weather for 10 days each in two of the last five school years.

“This was an ef­fort to al­le­vi­ate the con­cerns from the state board of ed­u­ca­tion and lo­cal boards of ed­u­ca­tion,” said Dou­glas Mayer, a spokesman for Ho­gan. “There was con­fu­sion about the waiver process, con­cerns about time, and this was an ef­fort” to ad­dress that.

In late August, Ho­gan de­clared that the state’s pub­lic school chil­dren would en­joy a longer sum­mer break start­ing next year, sign­ing an ex­ec­u­tive or­der say­ing schools could not open be­fore La­bor Day and had to end by June 15.

Ho­gan said the longer sum­mer re­cess would give fam­i­lies more time to­gether, gen­er­ate more rev­enue for the tourism in­dus­try and help keep stu­dents in the Bal­ti­more re­gion out of swel­ter­ing class­rooms that lack air con­di­tion­ing.

Although the or­der was pop­u­lar among par­ents in polls, the man­date in­fu­ri­ated school of­fi­cials, who said it was not good for stu­dents, par­tic­u­larly those whose fam­i­lies strug­gled to find en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing the sum­mer months. In ad­di­tion, Larry Ho­gan

some leg­is­la­tors and school of­fi­cials ar­gued that the gover­nor was wrest­ing con­trol out of lo­cal school board hands.

Only Worces­ter County — the lo­ca­tion of Ocean City — rou­tinely opens after La­bor Day.

But state ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials saw it dif­fer­ently. “I think this new ex­ec­u­tive or­der sends the mes­sage that the gover­nor is out of sync with the state board of ed­u­ca­tion,” said John R. Woolums, the di­rec­tor of gov­ern­men­tal re­la­tions for the Maryland As­so­ci­a­tion of Boards of Ed­u­ca­tion. “I think one ex­ec­u­tive or­der in­trud­ing into ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy is un­prece­dented and two is dou­bly un­prece­dented.”

Woolums said his group, which rep­re­sents all the lo­cal boards of ed­u­ca­tion in the state, passed a res­o­lu­tion last week op­pos­ing the in­tru­sion of the gover­nor’s of­fice on such mat­ters.

“The gover­nor is dou­bling down on ir­re­spon­si­ble gov­er­nance,” said state Sen. Bill Fer­gu­son, a Demo­crat who rep­re­sents Bal­ti­more.

“This is un­prece­dented in Maryland his­tory,” said Fer­gu­son, who ac­cused the gover­nor of play­ing “petty pol­i­tics.”

After ques­tions about the first or­der from sev­eral law­mak­ers, Maryland’s At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian E. Frosh is­sued a let­ter of ad­vice in Septem­ber that said Ho­gan may have ex­ceeded his author­ity.

“I can­not say unequiv­o­cally that the La­bor Day ex­ec­u­tive or­der exceeds the gover­nor’s author­ity, but I believe it is likely that a re­view­ing court, if pre­sented with the is­sue, would con­clude that it does,” wrote Adam D. Sny­der, a lawyer in the of­fice of the at­tor­ney gen­eral.

In late Septem­ber, the Maryland state school board said it would act “ex­pe­di­tiously” if lo­cal school boards wanted a waiver from the post La­bor Day start. And one state board mem­ber whom Ho­gan had ap­pointed wrote in a blog that he dis­agreed with the gover­nor’s man­date.

School dis­tricts needed lit­tle en­cour­age­ment, and Mont­gomery County’s school board agreed Mon­day to ask the state for a waiver so it could start be­fore La­bor Day.

Anne Arun­del County’s su­per­in­ten­dent was go­ing to ask his board to do the same. And Bal­ti­more, Car­roll and other county schools boards were con­sid­er­ing two cal­en­dars for next year, one that started be­fore La­bor Day and the other after. Most boards vote in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber on a cal­en­dar.

The de­bate has pit­ted tourism and busi­ness in­ter­ests ea­ger for more fam­ily time at Ocean City against school of­fi­cials who see the lo­cal cal­en­dar as the do­main of lo­cal school of­fi­cials.

Andy Smar­ick, pres­i­dent of the state board, said Tues­day he could not com­ment be­cause he had just got­ten the or­der and hadn’t read it.

He said the board would re­view the new or­der.

“In­stead of solv­ing real prob­lems with ed­u­ca­tion in Maryland,” Fer­gu­son said, “the ad­min­is­tra­tion is launch­ing an all-out at­tack on its own ed­u­ca­tion ap­pointees.”

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