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Petition says start school after Labor Day

Comptroller Peter Franchot looks on as Gov.-elect Larry Hogan adds his signature to the "Let Summer Be Summer" petition to Start School After Labor Day during a press conference Thursday morning in the Assembly Room of the Louis L. Goldstein Treasury Building in Annapolis to announce that the petition drive exceeded its goal. Standing at right is State Senator Jim Mathias.

Annapolis, MD -- Comptroller Peter Franchot, joined by Governor-elect Larry Hogan, Ocean City Mayor Richard W. Meehan, state Senator James N. Mathias Jr., and other elected officials, as well as small business owners, educators and tourism officials, today enthusiastically thanked Marylanders for their overwhelming support of his petition drive to start public schools after Labor Day. More than 13,240

Marylanders from every corner of the state signed the “Let Summer Be Summer,” petition, far exceeding the 10,000 signature goal.  The campaign kicked-off last August on the Ocean City Boardwalk and Deep Creek Lake, and today the list of supporters will be presented to members of the Maryland General Assembly.

“This is a grassroots, citizen-driven effort that has gathered tremendous support from all across our great state,” said Comptroller Franchot. “13,244 Marylanders have sent a clear message that starting school after Labor Day will give families, students, teachers and small businesses the break they need – and deserve. It gives students time to learn life lessons beyond the classroom, teachers time to recharge their batteries and small businesses much needed help during tough economic times. I am confident we can make this meaningful adjustment and continue to end the school year in early to mid-June.”

Governor-elect Larry Hogan added his signature to the petition today during the press conference, and fondly recalled spending Labor Day weekend in Ocean City while growing up.

"This isn't just a family issue, it’s an economic issue. It brings in a tremendous amount of economic activity, brings in tax revenue, and there’s no cost to the taxpayers,” Gov.-elect Hogan said. “As a guy who spent a lot of summers with his family in Ocean City on Labor Day weekend, it makes a whole heck of a lot of sense to start school after Labor Day. There’s just no downside to this issue. There are an overwhelming number of people in this state who are in favor of starting school after Labor Day.”

The “Let Summer Be Summer” campaign came on the heels of a May 2014 governor’s task force recommendation that the state’s public schools delay opening until after Labor Day.  The state task force met for nearly a year, and voted 11 to 4 to embrace a later start date and extend summer vacation statewide.

“Staring school after Labor Day is good for Ocean City and the entire state,” said Ocean City Mayor Richard W. Meehan. “It gives families more time to enjoy the last few weeks of summer and provides small businesses -- the heart of our tourism-based economy -- a tremendous economic boost when they need it most. It also creates jobs and generates revenue for our state’s struggling economy.”

In August 2013, Comptroller Franchot released an economic impact report on a post-Labor Day start for public schools. Completed by the Bureau of Revenue Estimates, the report found that a delayed school start in Maryland would result in an additional $74.3 million in direct economic activity, including $3.7 million in new wages and a separate $7.7 million in state and local revenue.

“From Ocean City to Assateague, the State Fair to the Inner Harbor to Deep Creek Lake, summers are about families exploring all that Maryland has to offer,” said Maryland Senator James N. Mathias Jr. “This time together is priceless for families, and in such challenging financial times, it also allows businesses to generate tens of millions of dollars in economic activity and supports jobs while increasing tax revenues.”

The Comptroller expressed confidence that the state’s school systems could adjust their academic calendars without pushing back the end date or losing time for classroom instruction. The flexibility of adjusting winter and spring breaks or eliminating some of the school closure dates scattered throughout the school calendar would be left to each of Maryland’s 24 school systems.

“Teaching is a labor of love, but it’s a tough job,” said Leslie Beveridge, a teacher at Easton Elementary. “With some commonsense adjustments to the school calendar, we can give teachers the summer breaks we need to recharge our batteries and spend quality time with our own families, without impacting the end of the school year.”

The study also found that 8.5 percent of 514,680 affected families – those with school age children – would take either a new day trip or a new overnight trip to one of Maryland’s three top destinations – Baltimore City, Deep Creek Lake or Ocean City. Another 5.2 percent would take a new out-of-state day or overnight trip, and the remaining families would devote at least one more day to a family recreational activity close to home.

“Starting school after Labor Day would give small businesses a big boost at a time when we could desperately use the help. This is an annual economic stimulus that doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime,” said Bill Paulshock, owner of Bill’s Seafood & Catering Co. “For small businesses like mine, adding a week or two to summer break can mean the difference between keeping the lights on or not.”
As the fourth largest industry in the state, the tourism sector employs more than 340,000 Marylanders and plays a significant role in driving the state’s economy.

“Starting school after Labor Day is critical for Maryland’s tourism industry and the Maryland families who live off the $4.5 billion in wages it represents. A consistent start to the school year means hotels, restaurants and attractions would no longer have to contend with the loss of seasonal workers at the most inopportune time and students would have greater opportunity to earn money and gain real-world experience through summer jobs,” said Kevin Kennedy, general manager, Hyatt Regency Baltimore.

While Labor Day weekend is most commonly associated with family trips to resort destinations, it also coincides with other major events such as home games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the Maryland State Fair in Timonium.

“An early start to the school year cuts short that precious time we have to spend with our kids, and it particularly impacts those of us who participate in 4-H, Future Farmers of America, and students studying agriculture. For months, these kids work incredibly hard competing at the county level with their indoor and outdoor projects, as well as raising livestock, to earn that spot at the state fair. Then they have to choose between attending the start of school or exhibiting at the state fair,” said Derek Hopkins, Harford County Register of Wills and 4-H leader.  “Let's support our children and families by giving them time to fully engage, explore and experience the world outside the classroom.”

Earlier this year, Governor Martin O’Malley also signed the petition.  View the complete Let Summer Be Summer petition.

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