Comptroller Franchot statement on starting Maryland public schools after Labor Day

ANNAPOLIS — “With thousands of students returning to Maryland public schools today, I would like to thank teachers, administrators and support staff for their hard work, selfless dedication and commitment to making a difference in our children’s lives. They have my continued support and appreciation for the sacrifices they make each and every day. This is an exciting time for students and families, and I wish them success in the coming school year.

 

By next Monday, students from all but one of Maryland’s 24 public school systems will return to the classroom. Sending kids back to school during the hot and humid days of August just doesn’t make sense to me – or to an overwhelming majority of Marylanders that support starting the state’s public schools after the Labor Day holiday. Very rarely does an issue make so much sense that it crosses all demographic, geographic and partisan lines like this one does, as evidenced by Governor Larry Hogan’s support, along with the 13,240 Marylanders from every corner of the state who signed the “Let Summer Be Summer” petition.

 

Despite facing firmly entrenched opposition from within the educational bureaucracy, this issue is just too important for me to back down. Once again, I will put my full support behind legislation to make a sensible change to Maryland’s public school calendars. As with most legislation that is introduced, I recognize that this is a multi-year effort. With the tremendous support of families, teachers and small business owners I have met while traveling across our state, I am more certain than ever that this is an issue of great importance to our quality of life and our economy. An independent poll by Goucher College found that 72 percent of Marylanders favor adjusting the school calendar and a Virginia Commonwealth University study showed no link between a pre-Labor Day school start and student achievement.

 

A legislative task force chaired by a representative of the Maryland State Department of Education voted overwhelming to endorse the initiative, concluding that starting school after Labor Day could easily be accomplished without moving the end of the school year beyond mid-June. Worcester County, the only school system with a post-Labor Day start, has been able to do so without extending the school year or creating major disruptions.

 

Starting school after Labor Day would give teachers, who have to return to classrooms in the stifling heat of mid-August, sometimes in schools without air conditioning, the break they need to recharge their batteries and to spend more quality time with their own families. Students would have greater opportunity to learn life lessons outside the classroom, including those involved in agricultural organizations like 4-H and Future Farmers of America. These kids work incredibly hard all year to earn a spot at the Maryland State Fair, only to have to choose between attending the start of school or exhibiting at the state fair. Simply put, a post-Labor Day start to school would give more families the time to build lasting memories.

 

Small businesses that lose seasonal workers would get a much needed boost during these tough economic times. A 2013 study conducted by Maryland’s Bureau of Revenue Estimates determined that a post-Labor Day school start could generate an additional $74.3 million in direct economic activity, including $3.7 million in new wages and a separate $7.7 million in state and local revenue.

 

I have complete confidence that our local school systems can make reasonable and modest adjustments to the school calendar to make a post-Labor Day start work for each of their communities. While there are significant economic benefits to changing the school calendar, this is ultimately about family and about the precious, but fleeting time parents have to spend with their kids.”

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