School Date Mandate Right Move For Maryland

School Date Mandate Right Move For Maryland

Nobody likes being told what to do. Whether a kid, young adult or a geriatric, being forced to do something against the will is never welcomed. That’s essentially what’s happening in Maryland right now with the post-Labor Day start. The governor is telling the state’s school system in clear terms when they can start and end their school years.

School systems across Maryland will, at least during the remainder of Gov. Larry Hogan’s reign, have to adjust their calendars in a significant way. Schools can’t start until after Labor Day and must be finished by June 15. There’s a waiver process built into this Executive Order that would seemingly only be approved as a result of weather.

There was a celebratory feel to Wednesday’s press conference on the Boardwalk. That’s because it’s a bold move by the governor and comes after a couple years of work. It’s a drastic mandate that likely arose after it was realized it was the only way to get this change enacted in Maryland.

Unless there was a wholesale change in the Maryland General Assembly in the coming years, it was doubtful legislation requiring a post-Labor Day start to schools would have ever been passed. It couldn’t escape the committee level in Annapolis the last two years after all, despite having the support of a majority of Marylanders if you believe several polls. That’s largely because it’s not embraced by public school superintendents who despise being told how to manage their operations.

What was most interesting to me with this week’s announcement was that it came with an end date requirement. That addresses what most of the naysayers have been saying — starting the school after Labor Day would push the last day of school into late June, particularly if there’s a snowy winter. What’s most likely to happen now with this change are reductions in holiday vacations and spring breaks and most professional days becoming half days. It can be done and shouldn’t be painful.

Worcester County can attest to that. Last year Worcester was again the sole system to start after Labor Day and the last day was June 17 as a result of weather. This year, according to the school calendar, the last day would be June 16 assuming no weather delays. It’s easy to look at the calendar and see days that could be cut.

Predictably, the Maryland State Education Association, the largest union representing educators and staff members, fired off an immature statement decrying the change. At least locally, the union’s viewpoint does not appear to have support from teachers, some of whom are presumably due-paying members.

“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,” the union maintained in a statement.

Additionally, in an editorial, The Baltimore Sun went after Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot in an equally sophomoric view that described the officials’ relationship as a “bromance.” The editorial read in part, “People are going to resent this mandate — the outcry from parents and teachers is likely to prove long and loud — and that ire is bound to rub off on Ocean City. That kind of negative association is the last thing the Eastern Shore resort town needs, considering its own controversies with crime, public brawls, underage drinking and flooding. Will Ocean City now be regarded as the reason Maryland’s youth are looked upon first as dishwashers and pizza deliverers rather than future scientists or tech wizards?”

That is an unbelievable statement that confirms how out of touch that particular media outlet is with the coastal area.

This move, announced on an empty Boardwalk on a beautiful day, certainly has its critics, but we applaud the Hogan administration for taking this step. It was the only way this change was going to take effect in today’s political climate in Annapolis. How long it will last probably depends on whether Hogan wins re-election in 2018.

We believe this is a good move for all involved — students, teachers, parents and other school staff members. Time will confirm that. It will have a major economic impact on the resort and other tourist areas in the state. That’s not a shortsighted goal. Tourism is a major economic engine in Maryland and its impact should not be understated and dismissed, as it was this week by detractors.

This positive effect far outweighs the negatives that school system officials will have to endure as far as the school calendar decision making process.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.