OCEAN CITY — As expected, the House of Delegates this week approved legislation reversing Gov. Larry Hogan’s mandate for a post-Labor Day start to the school year.
In 2016, Hogan issued an executive order establishing a post-Labor Day start to the school year for public schools in the state. Despite some pushback from certain school districts across the state, Hogan’s mandate went into effect last year and remains in place.
However, on Wednesday, the House of Delegates passed the crossed-over Senate Bill 128, introduced by Senator Nancy King (D-39-Montgomery) to allow each school district in Maryland to set their own start and end dates. The House passed the bill with a 95-45 vote on Wednesday after the full Senate passed the legislation, 31-13, last month.
When the Senate approved the bill in February, Hogan vowed to submit legislation that would send the post-Labor Day school start issue back to the residents of Maryland with a referendum on a future state election ballot.
However, it remains to be seen if voters in Maryland will ever get the chance to vote on the issue through a referendum. The Senate vote to reverse the executive order fell straight along party lines and the House vote on Wednesday nearly did the same although at least three Democrats broke ranks.
Democrats hold a 99-42 majority in the House the vote on Wednesday came in at 95-45. Hogan on Thursday was quick to couch the vote as partisan politics run amok in Annapolis.
“This is just politics at its worst,” he said. “As if it isn’t bad enough that members of the legislature are attempting to reverse our common-sense initiative to start school after Labor Day, they are now using heavy-handed tactics to influence the ballot process and any petition to bring this issue directly to Maryland voters.”
Hogan said the state legislature’s reversal of his executive order flies in the face of the initiative that began under the prior Democratic administration including a task force recommendation.
“In 2016, after years of public outcry, I took action to return to the tradition of starting school after Labor Day,” he said. “This is the same action that was recommended by the legislature’s own commission, supported by the former governor and favored by more than 70 percent of the people of Maryland.”
Hogan said state lawmakers cowed to special interest groups and not the will of the state’s citizens when they approved the bill to reverse the post-Labor Day school start mandate.
Republican leadership in Annapolis echoed some of Hogan’s sentiments.
“This body has a history of supporting a post-Labor Day school start, albeit under a Democratic governor,” said House Minority Leader Nic Kipke. “Then suddenly, after an election and three years after Governor Hogan’s executive order was signed, there is an emergent need to repeal this policy under the guise of local control. Given the number of bills in the House that bypass the locals to set education policy, this excuse is laughable.”
House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga took it a step further.
“Post-Labor Day school start dates have been widely favored by a vast majority of Marylanders,” she said. “With this bill, the House is not only bypassing the will of the citizens of Maryland, but it is also rigging the system by writing the ballot question itself. If the House has so little confidence in the citizens’ support for this bill that it needs to rig the ballot question, why are we passing this bill in the first place?”