OCEAN CITY — State Comptroller Peter Franchot met with resort business leaders yesterday morning to announce his initiative to push the start date for public schools across Maryland back until after Labor Day.
For decades, the public school year in Maryland always started after Labor Day, the symbolic end to the summer season, but in recent years, most jurisdictions have moved the start date earlier and earlier, into mid-August in some cases. Because of its resort nature, Worcester was one of the last to hold onto the post-Labor Day start date for schools, but the county has joined the ranks of other school systems starting in August in recent years.
“Unfortunately, the opportunity to enjoy beautiful days in Ocean City is cut short by our policy makers,” he said. “At some point, we began to start school a week, even 10 days in some cases, before Labor Day. How did that happen?”
Franchot said the early start date for schools has always made it difficult for the small businesses in the resort area and beyond.
“It has a negative impact on small businesses like this very Hooper’s and all others throughout Ocean City that rely on a strong tourist season,” he said. “During these tough economic times, we have to do all we can to foster growth. A busy summer in Ocean City is critical for this community and the entire state. Losing the last 7-10 days in August could be the difference between making it or closing doors.”
State law requires a 180-day school year, but Franchot said moving the start date back after Labor Day would not compromise that. His “Line in the Sand” initiative would include legislation in the 2013 General Assembly session to affect the change.
“I’m convinced the 180 mandated school days can be achieved with starting after Labor Day,” he said. “The best part of this proposal is that is doesn’t cost anything. In fact, it could generate $4 million in additional revenue. We’re going to drive this because it’s common sense, pro-business and pro-family.”
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said changing family dynamics have made the tradition summer vacation more difficult. He said cutting summer short by a week or two at the end of August contributed to that.
“Maryland families today find it difficult to get time off for vacation with both parents working and cutting summer short by a couple of weeks limits those opportunities further,” he said. “We can’t continue to allow that to happen. … This is the right thing to do. Going back to school before Labor Day is un-American. It’s not what we do in this country.”