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Weighing-in on Annapolis’ school yard fight

  • Charles County,St Mary's County,Calvert County,Prince George's County,Anne Arundel County
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Photo from the Governor's Office--photo from 2016

Prince Frederick, MD - Both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly have gone and done something Governor Larry Hogan believes is “incredibly stupid.” His fellow Republicans in the legislature agree. The measure, introduced by senators Paul Pinsky and Nancy J. King from Prince George’s and Montgomery counties respectively mandates that public school officials in Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions have sole control over their school year calendars. That sounds like an incredibly sane thing to do. The rub is, back in 2016 Hogan, along with Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, amid much fanfare, announced that by the governor’s executive order, all school systems would hereby be required to wait until after Labor Day to start their new school years. The decision was heralded as a way to allow families to take longer vacations and it was viewed as a potential economic shot in the arm for Ocean City, Maryland’s premier family resort. Other advocates cheered because it meant those high school students with summer employment could work at their jobs longer.

The post Labor Day change was recommended by a state taskforce plus there is evidence that it is overwhelmingly popular throughout the state.

First of all, long family vacations, summer jobs and even bolstering a single resort town’s economy are all good things. Where the initiative went awry was the executive order aspect. Since its enactment the “no school ‘til after Labor Day” edict has hamstrung local school officials when drafting their calendars. The governor doesn’t make those decisions, the school boards do. It’s also the school boards who hear the complaints of parents when planned holidays are rescinded due to weather-related cancellations.

The Pinsky-King measure was passed overwhelmingly by the State Senate. A similar victory for the bill’s advocates was achieved in the House, where Delegate Eric Ebersole sponsored the companion bill along with 31 cosponsors. No Republicans supported the bill and Hogan is likely to either veto it or simply not sign it. The measure will become law either way. So, now this has almost become a partisan bill and with the way the legislature’s Democrats have been beating down on fellow Dem Franchot, it also looks punitive. The State Senate Minority leader has called Democrats out for supporting other school mandates about issues that ought to be the purview of local school boards.

The measure is due to take effect July 1, realistically not in time to impact the 2019-2020 school year. There is a possibility the issue, in some form, could end up as a ballot question next year.

So what can citizens do besides watch helplessly as this school yard fight in Annapolis continues? This would be the time to become more active in your county’s public school system. The calendar may be drafted in a boardroom before it is presented. However, it doesn’t officially become a calendar until public comment is heard and the board of education votes on it. If starting your county’s public school year after Labor Day is important to you, the onus is on you to move the debate away from Annapolis and bring it to your local, non-partisan school board.

The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the management of TheBayNet.com

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

Read TheBayNet.com's editorial on Governor Hogan's September 2016 announcement here

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