Sharp criticism about starting school after Labor Day

A Maryland bill that would require all 24 public school districts to start the school year after Labor Day met with sharp criticism from several educators and a few state lawmakers on March 11, Delmarva Now reports.

State Comptroller Peter Franchot has been on a campaign to push for the change in state law, saying that providing extra time at the end of summer vacation would be good for local businesses, especially those linked to tourism in Ocean City and near Deep Creek Lake, we reported.

But now, some lawmakers, including state Sen Paul Pinsky, a Democrat from Prince George’s County and vice chair of the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee, say such a mandate from Annapolis might overstep the role the state should play in running local school districts.

“While I think we’re all sympathetic, it does impinge on our ability to set successful school policy,” the paper quoted him as saying. He added that if schools were required to start after Labor Day, they would be less able “to be current and (to change) direction as we learn more about pedagogy and how students learn.”

Educators are almost unanimously opposed to the proposed legislation, Senate Bill 455, saying that the school calendar should be a local, not a state-mandated, decision.

The Maryland State Education Association, the teachers’ union that represents most of the public school teachers in the state, expressed concern that adding a week to summer vacation would just mean the 43 percent of Maryland’s schoolchildren who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals in the schools would go hungry for another week.

One superintendent concurred, saying that “43 percent of our families are looking at making ends meet and not family vacation.”

I also agree. Whether decisions are made locally or at the state level, they must serve all of Maryland’s schoolchildren equally, not just those whose families can afford to spend the end of summer in Ocean City or Garrett County.

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Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more biographical information, see the About page.