Gov­er­nor signs ex­ec­u­tive or­der man­dat­ing school be­gin af­ter La­bor Day

County of­fi­cials de­cry loss of lo­cal con­trol

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­

Be­gin­ning next year, stu­dents will have longer sum­mer breaks, ac­cord­ing to an ex­ec­u­tive or­der signed Wed­nes­day by Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R).

Ho­gan held a press con­fer­ence in Ocean City Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon just prior to signing an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that would af­fect all 24 Mary­land school dis­tricts, re­quir­ing that school start the day af­ter La­bor Day and end on June 15.

Ho­gan cred­ited ally and long-time post-La­bor Day ad­vo­cate Mary­land Comptroller Peter Fran­chot (D) dur­ing his speech.

“This is just one more way that with us work­ing to­gether, that we are chang­ing Mary­land for the bet­ter,” Ho­gan said. “School af­ter La­bor Day is now the law of the land in Mary­land.”

Ho­gan said there is “broad,

bi-par­ti­san sup­port” for mov­ing the start of school to af­ter La­bor Day. Prior leg­is­la­tion to ac­com­plish just that have failed sev­eral times in the Mary­land Gen­eral Assem­bly.

Ho­gan said the new pol­icy would be­gin at the start of the 2017-18 school year.

“The ac­tion that we are tak­ing to­day will help pro­tect the tra­di­tional end of sum­mer, not only for fam­i­lies on va­ca­tion this week, but also for the teach­ers and the stu­dents work­ing here in Ocean City and across the state for the sum­mer,” Ho­gan said.

Charles County Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Hill said the de­ci­sion of when to start school should be a lo­cal one.

“I think it is fair to say that we would ad­vo­cate for lo­cal con­trol of the school cal­en­dar,” Hill said. “Ed­u­ca­tion is a lo­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity and I be­lieve that lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and lo­cal boards should have the fi­nal say, based on sound ed­u­ca­tional prin­ci­ples.”

Hill said that the school cal­en­dar is de­vel­oped two years in advance, with in­put from com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers. The school board ap­proved its 2017-18 cal­en­dar last spring.

“That cal­en­dar in­cludes a start date of Aug. 28, and now the school board will need to re­visit that,” Hill said.

Mary­land Del. Edith Pat­ter­son (D-Charles) said she was sur­prised to learn of the gov­er­nor’s ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion.

“I’m re­ally taken aback,” Pat­ter­son said. “I’m very dis­ap­pointed in his de­ci­sion.”

Pat­ter­son, a for­mer mem­ber of the Charles County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion, said the de­ci­sion forces a “one-size fits all” ap­proach on dif­fer­ent coun­ties.

“I feel that school boards should have au­ton­omy; they should be able to make de­ci­sions for their county, and this ex­ec­u­tive or­der takes away their au­ton­omy,” Pat­ter­son said.

Ho­gan cited en­vi­ron­men­tal, en­ergy and eco­nomic rea­sons for man­dat­ing the start of school af­ter La­bor Day.

Ac­cord­ing to Ho­gan, schools will save money by be­ing closed through­out the sec­ond-hottest day of the year and fewer school buses on the road will re­duce the amount of green­house gases re­leased in Au­gust, a high­o­zone month.

Hill said that while Charles County Public Schools is al­ways look­ing for ways to be more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly and save tax­pay­ers money, school cal­en­dars should pri­or­i­tize sound ed­u­ca­tional prin­ci­ples and ed­u­ca­tional re­quire­ments.

Ho­gan also said a 2013 study by the Mary­land Bureau of Rev­enue Es­ti­mates showed the move would re­sult in an es­ti­mated $74 mil­lion in ad­di­tional eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity.

Del. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton (D-Charles) said he was con­cerned the new start date would detri­men­tally im­pact stu­dents’ abil­ity to re­tain knowl­edge be­tween school years and neg­a­tively im­pact test­ing.

“I ap­pre­ci­ate our busi­ness com­mu­nity, but we’re talk­ing about the in­vest­ment in the ed­u­ca­tion of our chil­dren,” Mid­dle­ton said.

Dan Curry, su­per­in­ten­dent of Calvert County Public Schools, and Den­nis Mooney, pres­i­dent of the Calvert Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, also said that the de­ci­sion of when to start the school year should be made on a lo­cal level.

“I think it should be a lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tion’s de­ci­sion when to start and when school would end,” Mooney said.

Mooney said the change will have an ef­fect on test­ing, which oc­curs in April and May. Teach­ers and stu­dents will have less time to pre­pare and scores will go down. If this hap­pens, the teacher’s union pres­i­dent said, there will be “an up­roar.”

Curry said the Public Schools Su­per­in­ten­dents As­so­ci­a­tion of Mary­land pre­vi­ously took a stand against start­ing the school year af­ter La­bor Day, and that the de­ci­sion should rest with lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions. Curry said the de­ci­sion to start the school year later is more rel­e­vant in beach com­mu­ni­ties, and as a re­sult, hol­i­day breaks will have to be short­ened to ac­com­mo­date the re­quire­ment that school start af­ter La­bor Day and end by June 15.

“Cut­ting those [breaks] will cer­tainly up­set a lot of peo­ple,” Curry said.

As for the other South­ern Mary­land public school ju­ris­dic­tion, St. Mary’s Su­per­in­ten­dent Scott Smith ex­plained that mov­ing for­ward, just as has been done in the past, there will be a cal­en­dar com­mit­tee in­clud­ing St. Mary’s teach­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors, par­ents and com­mu­nity mem­bers. The com­mit­tee will “re­view re­quire­ments put forth by [Mary­land State Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion] and the gov­er­nor ev­i­dently.” Smith said the com­mit­tee will work to­ward build­ing a cal­en­dar for the next school year, “tak­ing the in­ter­ests of our stu­dents and com­mu­nity that we serve to heart, to best serve all stake­hold­ers.”

St. Mary’s this year had eight days of classes be­fore La­bor Day. It is not clear yet how school sys­tems will have to ad­just cal­en­dars, al­though win­ter and spring breaks may have to be short­ened next year. Smith said St. Mary’s schools will have to find about eight ad­di­tional days where stu­dents will at­tend school be­tween La­bor Day and June 15 for the 2017-2018 school year.

It is un­known ex­actly how the ex­ec­u­tive or­der will im­pact schools that have ex­tended cal­en­dars, in­clud­ing the Ch­e­sa­peake Public Char­ter School, which an­nu­ally opens two weeks be­fore other public schools in St. Mary’s.

Shortly af­ter the an­nounce­ment, the Mary­land State Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion re­leased an email highly crit­i­cal of the gov­er­nor’s ac­tion and la­belling it a “school cut” that will un­fairly dis­ad­van­tage stu­dents from poor so­cioe­co­nomic back­grounds.

“It’s abun­dantly clear that Gov. Ho­gan is more in­ter­ested in grab­bing head­lines than em­ploy­ing re­search-backed solutions that could make a dif­fer­ence for stu­dents,” Sean John­son, MSEA di­rec­tor of gov­ern­ment re­la­tions, said in a state­ment. “Cut­ting back the school year and ex­tend­ing sum­mer is not a so­lu­tion to any ed­u­ca­tion prob­lem — it’s just an­other Gov. Ho­gan school cut. And it’s not only a cut — it’s a sum­mer tax on the thou­sands of work­ing fam­i­lies who don’t have the ex­tra money or va­ca­tion time to spend in Ocean City but who will now be forced to scrape to­gether hun­dreds or thou­sands of dol­lars an­nu­ally to cover ad­di­tional child care costs from a longer sum­mer.”

Ho­gan said the ex­ec­u­tive or­der in­cluded pro­vi­sions al­low­ing school dis­tricts to ap­ply for a waiver.

“If school dis­tricts can pro­vide com­pelling jus­ti­fi­ca­tion as to why they should be ex­empted from start­ing their schools af­ter La­bor Day, they will be able to ap­ply to the state Board of Ed­u­ca­tion for a waiver,” Ho­gan said.

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