Governor signs executive order mandating school begin after Labor Day
County officials decry loss of local control
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.