A Ho­gan ap­pointee rips school start move

Finn de­scribes or­der as ‘very bad ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy’

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Liz Bowie liz.bowie@balt­sun.com

Mary­land school board mem­ber Ch­ester Finn has sharply crit­i­cized Gov. Larry Ho­gan, less than 24 hours af­ter the gover­nor’s lat­est ex­ec­u­tive or­der on start­ing school af­ter La­bor Day.

Finn, a Ho­gan ap­pointee, called Ho­gan’s or­der lim­it­ing school sys­tems’ abil­ity to ob­tain waivers to start school be­fore La­bor Day “very bad ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy” in a blog post for the Thomas B. Ford­ham In­sti­tute, a con­ser­va­tive think tank he once led.

He added that it would leave lit­tle room for school dis­tricts to do what they be­lieve is best for stu­dents. In his post on the blog called Fly­pa­per, Finn said Ho­gan never con­sulted with the state board be­fore re­quir­ing last month that school dis­tricts start school af­ter La­bor Day.

The gover­nor’s ac­tion essen­tially ex­tended sum­mer va­ca­tion to help Ocean City busi­nesses dur­ing a peak beach-go­ing week­end. Ho­gan has said the move will give fam­i­lies more time to spend to­gether and help keep stu­dents out of un­air­con­di­tioned schools for a week in Au­gust.

“Gover­nor Ho­gan serves the peo­ple of Mary­land and has very lit­tle con­cern or pa­tience with the grum­bles of grouchy bu­reau­crats who refuse to do what is best for stu­dents and fam­i­lies,” said Dou­glass Mayer, Ho­gan’s spokesman. “Ul­ti­mately, they are free to their own opin­ions, mis­guided as they are, but the gover­nor will con­tinue do­ing what is clearly right and what the vast ma­jor­ity of Mary­lan­ders want to see done.”

The gover­nor’s orig­i­nal or­der said waivers could be granted by the state board for “com­pelling jus­ti­fi­ca­tion.” The state school board re­sponded by say­ing it would cre­ate a process to grant waivers to school dis­tricts at its Oc­to­ber meet­ing. Many school dis­tricts said they were con­sid­er­ing ap­ply­ing for a waiver.

But Ho­gan’s new or­der Tues­day sig­nif­i­cantly nar­rowed which schools could ap­ply for a waiver, lim­it­ing them to char­ters and schools with “in­no­va­tive sched­ules.” The new or­der ap­pears to make it nearly im­pos­si­ble for en­tire dis­tricts to get waivers.

The gover­nor’s ac­tion has roiled lo­cal and state ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials, who see it as an at­tempt to usurp lo­cal con­trol of school cal­en­dars. Only one pub­lic school system in the state, Worces­ter County’s, has con­sis­tently started school af­ter La­bor Day.

It’s not clear if any lo­cal school board will chal­lenge the gover­nor’s or­der in court or whether the state leg­is­la­ture will take the mat­ter up when it meets in Jan­uary.

Michael A. Durso, pres­i­dent of the Mont­gomery County school board, said his panel hasn’t had an op­por­tu­nity to dis­cuss a course of ac­tion or digest the gover­nor’s lat­est ac­tions.

His board had voted Mon­day to ask for a waiver.

“I would hesitate to say we have a real clear course of ac­tion,” Durso said.

What­ever course lo­cal ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cials take, it must hap­pen quickly. Sys­tems are rac­ing to get their cal­en­dars for the next school year fi­nal­ized in the next two months.

“Par­ents just want to know when is school go­ing to start so they can plan ac­cord­ingly,” Durso said.

George Ar­lotto, Anne Arun­del County’s su­per­in­ten­dent, was plan­ning to rec­om­mend that the next school year start be­fore La­bor Day.

But af­ter the gover­nor’s ac­tion Tues­day, spokesman Bob Mosier said, “we are sim­ply try­ing to wade through the un­cer­tainty and un­rest in or­der to cre­ate a cal­en­dar that supports our stu­dents to the max­i­mum ex­tent pos­si­ble.”

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