Maryland Senate OKs letting local officials set school start
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Maryland Senate voted Tuesday to enable local school boards to decide whether school begins before or after Labor Day.
The 31-13 vote was along party lines in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The measure now goes to the House, where Democrats hold a supermajority. The issue has prompted a battle with Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who signed an executive order in 2016 requiring schools to start 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.
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.
"It is about giving local school systems the right to decide whether they're going to start school before Labor Day or not, whether they're going to end school before June 15th or after June 15th, whatever fits their local school system," King said.
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.
The governor included a copy of the Senate roll call on the bill on his social media accounts, urging residents to call senators who voted for the measure and "tell them they are opposing the will of voters like you."
"The Maryland Senate just voted against the will of over 70 (percent) of Marylanders who want schools to start classes after Labor Day," Hogan wrote in a tweet. "This common sense policy has had broad, bipartisan support for years."
Sen. Stephen Hershey, an Eastern Shore Republican, said state lawmakers already put many mandates on local officials. He described the measure approved Tuesday as a political dig at a popular Republican governor by Democrats.
"This was a clear shot to Governor Hogan," Hershey told reporters after the vote, adding "this is one of the most popular things that he's done, and they're clearly taking a shot at him."
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, said after the vote that the state's demographics have changed. He also made a reference to the 1950s television program "Leave it to Beaver" to say the times have changed as well. Extending summer break past Labor Day doesn't help Ocean City as much as it once did, Miller said.
"If it was still the days of Wally and Beaver Cleaver, that would be great, but those days are gone. June is gone," Miller said in a reference to two children and their mother on the program about an American family. "You know, the Beav has moved on. 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."