WASHINGTON – It’s called the “Let Summer be Summer” bill, and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot introduced the proposal to the House Ways and Means Committee Thursday.
The bill has garnered massive public support. In fact seven in 10 Maryland families say they’d like to see school start after Labor Day. But it’s a tricky time of year to propose a shorter school year, as many Maryland school districts are grappling with mounting snow days.
But Franchot is not concerned about snow days. He points to Garrett County, which he says sees the most snow and plans its calendar smartly to avoid extending the school year.
“We are asking the school systems to put six months of education, 180 days, in a nine-month schedule,” Franchot says.
There is push back from superintendents and some legislators like Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s County, who say the focus should be on education and not on vacation.
“We need to put instructional issues first. I think we should be moving to consider year-round education, not shortening the school year simply to accommodate Ocean City and business owners,” Pinsky says.
The bill has been touted not only as a win for families, but for summer-season businesses in vacation spots like Deep Creek, which is in Garrett County, and Ocean City.
“Local school boards would like autonomy. This was clearly driven by tourism … I think it’s abominable,” Pinsky says.
None of the state’s 24 school systems support a state mandate on their start date, according to the Maryland State Education Association.
“School calendars should be developed locally, by parents, educators and community members with the best interests of students in mind, not mandated from the top down at the request of the tourism industry,” according to language on the issue distributed by the education association.
In response to the push back from the state’s superintendent and some other lawmakers, Franchot says he expects they’ll come around. He says the bill has bipartisan support.
“The only people that stand in the way are education elite, bureaucrats, superintendents. And hopefully we’ll be able to move it through and I think they’ll be convinced it was a great idea for the state,” Franchot says.
Virginia has a similar law on the books, known as the Kings Dominion law, that requires schools to open after Labor Day and regularly generates debates whether the law should be repealed. School systems throughout the commonwealth frequently request waivers to begin the year early.