Maryland Senate OKs Letting Local Schools Set School Start

ANNAPOLIS (ANN) – Let the debate start

Maryland’s Senate approved a bill that would let school districts set their calendars to open before Labor Day if they choose. Senate Bill 128 passed 31-13, (along party lines) with three absences recorded.

Opponents complained that in the past, when classes started before Labor Day, the calendar was drawn up in such a way that as soon as school started, there were days off

Sen. Nancy King, a Montgomery County Democrat, said Maryland’s schools have different scheduling issues to grapple with each year. As an example, she noted that some of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions celebrate different religious holidays

“With religious holidays that some counties celebrate and other counties don’t, I just think that the whole decision for the school calendar needs to be with the county school boards,” King said.

Sen. Justin Ready, who represents Carroll County, expressed some frustration about claims that the bill is intended to provide schools with more local control.

“I don’t think the argument that we don’t want to tell the local counties what to do is a good one here,” Ready said, explaining that the legislature frequently votes on issues that mandate what the counties can do.

Hogan, who says his executive order has been among the most popular actions he’s taken as governor, has proposed compromise legislation to require voters to decide the issue in jurisdictions where there’s a push to move the school start to before Labor Day. At a news conference last week, Hogan said the measure passed by the Senate goes against what a majority of the state’s residents want. He said he’s confident voters will petition the bill to the ballot in 2020, if the measure clears the General Assembly.

Hogan’s office also pointed out that a number of lawmakers who support the bill to allow schools to open before Labor Day had voted in favor of mandating a post-Labor Day class start in 2015 and 2016.

Last week, Miller noted that in the past, he supported starting school after Labor Day. “Times change, circumstances change and there are reasons why votes change,” Miller said. “Our state is more diversified. We have a large minority population now in Prince George’s County and Baltimore city. They’re not beating the doors down to run to Ocean City after Labor Day.”   

Supporters of the governor say the longer summer breaks give families more time together and help tourism, but critics say it shortchanges education.  

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