Politics Stir Up School Start Drama

Politics Stir Up School Start Drama

Maryland’s debate over when public schools should start represents a departure from typical partisan feuding.

Republicans typically oppose government intervention in local matters. Republicans prefer government not play a huge role in people’s daily lives and when that’s necessary it should be done on the micro level by local legislators who know their constituents. Democrats usually support a larger government operation, feeling intervention from the top is a must to offer structure and order to maintain social wellness and economic prosperity.

While there are many others, these are fundamental differences among the two ruling parties in the country. In the Maryland General Assembly, these principles generally carry the day, but the roles appear to be reversed when it comes to the concept of when to start schools in Maryland.

Due to his Executive Order requiring schools start after Labor Day, Gov. Larry Hogan has thrown a head-strong government into the local decision-making process. He took the authority away from the local boards of education and it was mandated at the state level. The Democrats cried foul over that order because they say local school boards should make the call. It’s a shame the Democrats don’t feel that way about setting an impossible minimum wage for businesses and governments to adapt to in the coming years.

The legislature feels so strongly about the school start and minimum wage changes that the governor’s two vetoes were overriden in short order last week. In a letter to Senate President Mike Miller last week, Gov. Larry Hogan responded to the legislature’s override on the school matter.

“I tried to work with members of the Maryland General Assembly on a compromise bill that was ultimately not even scheduled for a hearing. The

legislation would have allowed any local school system that decides to start school before Labor Day to be required to put that decision on the ballot for the voters of that jurisdiction to decide for themselves,” Hogan wrote. “Our administration’s bill would have offered genuine, local control over this important issue. Senate Bill 128 masquerades under the guise of more local control but instead does the complete opposite of what citizens want. Perhaps one of the most troubling aspects of Senate Bill 128 is the politically charged actions that legislators took in recently amending the legislation to directly control the ballot language — a clear attempt to change the outcome of the referendum. This is highly irregular and a thinly veiled attempt to manipulate the will of our citizens.”

While Hogan remains a popular governor, his legislative success is limited. Although unfortunate, success at the ballot box means little in Annapolis. He may have a majority of Marylanders on his side on the school start bill, which we have supported for more than a decade, but it’s irrelevant. If he can’t build bi-partisan support better than he did this session, the governor will remain largely ineffective during his last term.

It’s a shame the start of school became such a hot political potato this session, but it was clearly labeled as an opportunity by the ruling Democrats to remind the governor of the realities in Maryland.

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.