OCEAN CITY – Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order Wednesday mandating a post Labor Day start for schools in Maryland.
Amid chants of “let summer be summer,” Hogan announced that the executive order would require that schools start after Labor Day and end by June 15 each beginning with the 2017-2018 school year.
“Most people agree this is long overdue and it’s simply the right thing to do,” Hogan told a crowd in front of the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum on the Boardwalk.
Hogan’s executive order comes nearly two years after the day Comptroller Peter Franchot visited Ocean City to begin his campaign to mandate a post-Labor Day start for the state’s schools. Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan praised the efforts of both politicians in making the change a reality.
“They have both supported this from the beginning,” he said.
Meehan, pointing toward a relatively empty Inlet parking lot on a warm, sunny day, said starting schools later would give families time to enjoy the end of summer at the beach.
“This will bring back Maryland license plates to Ocean City,” he said. “This is a good thing for Maryland. Common sense has prevailed.”
Franchot, the most vocal advocate for a later school start date, said the change would give families more time to spend together, provide teachers with the rest they needed and boost the state’s economy. He added that it would also give the 10,000 Maryland children who came from agricultural backgrounds to participate in their county fairs.
“More than 70 percent of Marylanders want a post-Labor Day school start …,” Franchot said. “This is not a Republican issue or a democratic issue. It’s a common sense issue that’s good for all Marylanders.”
Hogan thanked Franchot for his efforts and said they were both committed to finding bipartisan solutions to problems.
“We try to find the best ideas regardless of which side of the aisle they come from,” Hogan said, adding that pushing back the start of school would generate an additional $74 million in economic activity.
Hogan said starting school later wouldn’t just help the economy and give families additional time together but that it would also improve safety for students. He pointed out that many schools in the state did not have air conditioning and were forced to close when temperatures exceeded 90 degrees.
The governor reminded the public that the task force appointed by his predecessor, Martin O’Malley, had voted 12-3 in favor of a post-Labor Day school start and that studies had shown starting classes after Labor Day would not have an adverse effect on students’ education.
Nevertheless, educators criticized the governor’s decision. In a press release issued immediately after Hogan signed the executive order, offcials from the Maryland State Education Association said it would increase the summer brain drain for students.
“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,” said Sean Johnson, the organization’s director of government relations. “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.”
Johnson’s statement continued, “Instead of focusing on unproven distractions that benefit private entities like parochial schools, national charter school operators, and the tourism industry, we urge both Gov. Hogan and Comptroller Franchot to focus more on addressing the 47% teacher turnover rate within their first three years in the profession, the over-testing that takes away hours of instruction every year, and how we can better support the 45% of Maryland students who are low-income with proven reforms like expanding pre-K, after-school programs, and community schools.”
Hogan’s executive order will force schools to start after Labor Day and end by June 15. He says that if there are inclement weather closures that threaten to push the last day of school back, school systems can seek waivers as they have in the past. He added that schools would also be able to seek waivers to start prior to Labor Day if they had a compelling reason to do so.
Sen. Jim Mathias and Del. Mary Beth Carozza both praised the change and thanked the governor and comptroller.
“This allows that last summer hurrah for Maryland families,” Carozza said.