Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) executive order requiring all Maryland public schools to start classes after Labor Day, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, has some Prince George’s County leaders taking sides.


Maryland Del. Jay Walker has questions about Gov. Hogan changing the school starting calendar. (Twitter Photo)

On Aug. 31, Hogan, with the support of Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), announced the date change in Ocean City, Md. “Starting Maryland public schools after Labor Day is not just a family issue, it’s an economic and public safety issues that draws clear, strong bi-partisan support among an overwhelming majority of Marylanders,” the governor said. “Comptroller Franchot and I believe, and the people of Maryland strongly agree, that this executive order puts the interest of Marylanders first, especially the well-being of our students. This action is long overdue and it is simply the right thing to do.”

The order requires Maryland school districts put in the required 180 days and adjourn classes by June 15. School districts can apply for a waiver of this order with the Maryland State Department of Education.

Hogan and Franchot acknowledge that locales such as Ocean City will benefit from this order, saying that it will bring in revenue as a result of people having more to time take their vacations. The governor has cited Goucher College polls that indicate 70 percent of Marylanders support the post-Labor Day school start.

However, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker III (D) doesn’t agree with Hogan’s order. “Governor Hogan is basing this on the desires of the business community,” Baker said on the Sept. 1 edition of “NewsTalk with Bruce Depuyt” show. “Local jurisdictions should decide how they handle their own schools. The reason the move to start school pre-Labor Day was to give kids more time in the classroom not less time.”

Baker said the pre-Labor Day start of classes was designed to stop the “brain drain” or the knowledge that students tend to lose over the summer months when they aren’t being intellectually engaged. He also notes that there is education data produced by Johns Hopkins University that shows that students benefit from pre-Labor Day enrollment in classes and he points out one aspect that the governor’s order doesn’t address. “We are also looking at meal time,” Baker said. “When kids are in school, they have access to meals.”

Maryland Del. Jay Walker (D-District 26), who represents a portion of southern Prince George’s County and is the chairman of the Prince George’s County House Delegation, said that Hogan’s order is incomplete. “What about snow days or teacher professional development days?” Walker told the AFRO. “Do they count? This may be good for business but is it good for teachers?”

Walker said that instead of issuing an order, the governor should have submitted legislation for the school start change. “I am a member of the Ways and Means Committee and our education subcommittee chair is Anne Kaiser,” Walker said, speaking of his colleague who represents the 14th district in the House of Delegates. “Did Governor Hogan talk to Del. Kaiser about this? He should have done that.”

Yet, there are supporters for Hogan’s order in the county. Inez DuBose, a resident of Mitcheville, Md., and a staunch Democrat, told the AFRO that moving the school starting date after Labor Day isn’t a bad idea. “Many of the students aren’t ready for school anyway,” DuBose said. “Plus, the teachers and administrators need more time for class preparation and to make out students’ schedules, and the bus drivers need to be able to learn their routes.”

DuBose said that the 180-day state requirement can be met by altering the holiday schedule. “I think a week out for Easter should be looked at and some of those teacher-staff development days could be cut,” she said. “It is ridiculous to have the students in class until June 24. What type of instruction goes on in the first weeks in June? Not much from what I see.”

DuBose understands Baker’s concern about the ‘brain drain” and has a solution for that. “The county needs to come up with summer programs that will stimulate young people’s minds during the summer,” she said. “The program can be paid or volunteer. The important thing is to keep young people engaged during those summer months.”