OCEAN CITY- The debate over a mandated post-Labor Day start to the school year in Maryland began anew this week with Governor Larry Hogan announcing legislation to override a bill approved by state lawmakers last year.
On Wednesday, Hogan announced he was introducing the Universal School Start Act of 2020, legislation aimed at codifying his executive order handed down 2016 mandating a post-Labor Day start for all public school systems in Maryland. For two years, all public schools in the state returned after Labor Day each year until the General Assembly last year passed legislation reversing the governor’s mandate from 2016.
Hogan’s Universal School Start Act of 2020, which was announced this week, directly repeals the 2019 reversal approved by the General Assembly last year. In that legislation, local school boards were given the autonomy to decide when to start the school year each fall.
From the beginning, Hogan has asserted that legislation was politically motivated and did not represent the will of the majority of Marylanders. On Tuesday, he re-emphasized his proposed legislation represented the feelings of the state’s citizens.
“We’ve taken a lot of actions over the past five years, but I can’t think of a single one that has more widespread, enthusiastic support across the state,” he said. “But after two years of it working very well, and after the 2018 election was completed, last year in 2019 special interests snuck in a bill and legislators reversed themselves and ignored the people again by reversing this common-sense action with a misguided piece of legislation, which has the potential to cause mass confusion this fall and in future years with a potential for 24 different start dates spread over several weeks.”
For Hogan, the legislation representes an opportunity to right a perceived wrong.
“The Universal School Start Act will repeal the legislature’s 2019 misguided bill and return our state to what the citizens actually want and have been demanding for years,” he said. “That is the return of the school start to after Labor Day.”
Some educators across Maryland have called into question the validity of the governor’s executive order. Critics have claimed a later school start, although the required 180 days will be preserved, would cut down on valuable teaching time. Perhaps more importantly, some school jurisdictions have claimed the governor’s mandate undermines the autonomy of the various school districts and ties the hands of superintendents to make decisions on what they believe is best for their schools.