Though Maryland’s next legislative session is still four months away, the groundwork has begun to keep school systems from opening before Labor Day weekend.
Within a matter of hours yesterday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan sent an email seeking funding help to fight the legislature on the matter and the results of a survey on the economic impact of starting school after Labor Day were released. Within the same time window, Sen. Mary Beth Carozza also posted on Facebook about the issue. With school boards across the state likely to consider the next school year’s calendar in the coming months, she encouraged constituents to “tell your school board members that school should start after Labor Day.” There is no way all these communications were a coincidence.
Through his Change Maryland Action Fund organization, Hogan’s email stated, “Three years ago, I listened to you and residents across our state who wanted a common sense, bipartisan change to improve their lives. … Despite overwhelming support, out-of-touch politicians in the legislature passed a law overturning the will of the people. Worse, they knew how unpopular their power grab would be so they shifted responsibility to the local school boards who operate without most people knowing what they are doing. By doing this, the Annapolis politicians think they can cut family vacations short and force children back into the classroom during the heat of the summer … Without you even knowing! … we can’t allow the special interests and lobbyists to defeat the kids, parents, and teachers. Your donation will help us fight the shenanigans this powerful lobby will use to overturn the voice of the overwhelming majority, and it will enable us to empower families to speak out.”
The economic and fiscal impact study of a post-Labor Day start was conducted by Salisbury University’s Business Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON). Reports highlights include a total net economic impact of allowing schools to start after Labor Day of between $58 million (six extra days of summer) and $115 million (12 extra days); additional wages earned by workers of about $2.9 million to $5.8 million; and net revenue to state and local governments of $8 million to $16 million.
“This independent analysis validates what we already know: starting school after Labor Day is good for Maryland families, good for our local businesses and good for the Maryland economy,” said Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot. “At a time when the state is considering new sources of revenue for our public schools, this adds millions of dollars to our state’s coffers, all while supporting great family-owned, small businesses and sustaining summer employment.”
A major lobbying effort appears to be on tap for the next legislative session. When the legislature overturned the governor’s executive order mandating a post-holiday start for schools during the last session, it took place too late in the year for school systems to alter their calendars. It’s clear most Maryland school systems will revert to starting school the third or fourth week in August next year. In fact, my guess is Worcester and Garrett counties will be the only school systems in Maryland to continue with the post-Labor Day start in 2020.
Despite the sound intentions of elected officials, the new economic data and the majority of Marylanders preferring to start school after Labor Day, this issue has unfortunately become a political hot potato. It’s simply an opportunity for the ruling Democratic Party to flex its muscles and remind Republican Hogan he does not have the ultimate authority in the state without enough Republican support to override a veto. It’s also an opportunity to try and weaken Franchot’s presumptive bid for governor in 2022.
The Worcester County Commissioners did what was expected this week when they voted 5-1 to reject a text amendment that would have allowed current year-round residents to stay in White Horse Park despite a county law forbidding it. The amendment would have essentially grandfathered current residents in until they died or sold their property.
An argument could be made the commissioners who voted against the amendment were right to do so because they were simply upholding a current law. I disagree with that premise. I believe it was the county’s responsibility to enforce its own law in the first place. By not doing so, the county allowed the perception that it was okay to live in the mobile home park against the law to become a reality. There should be a consequence for that. The county should have been enforcing its own law. The commissioners should find out why staff members were not doing so for decades.
Moving forward, residents have a decision to make because attorney Hugh Cropper wants to take the matter to the courts. “I’m incredibly disappointed that the commissioners would not even give them basic due process, the right to speak and tell their side of the story,” he said. “I hope my clients hire me to file an injunction because I don’t think there’s a judge out there that’ll throw these people out.”
It will be interesting to hear how the court system would rule. I think imposing an injunction with a set of conditions, including a specific amount of time the residents can continue to stay full time, would be a wise course.