Senate mulls earlier school start

CAMBRIDGE — Last year, the state’s public schools returned to the post-Labor Day start that previous students and their families had experienced. That could change following this year’s Legislative Session.

Comptroller Peter Franchot spoke Feb. 13 to members of the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce. Among the topics covered in his remarks were his disappointment that 33 fellow Democrats had voted to repeal the Labor Day opening.

“Ocean City was saved by that extra week of tourism,” he said. The last, long weekend before school starts, coupled with its economic activity, have been met with widespread approval. “Seventy to eighty percent of Marylanders support it,” Mr. Franchot said.

The proposed change, titled The Summer School Bill, also known as Senate Bill 128, would allow local school boards to send students back to class in August. In an online statement, Mr. Franchot asked for citizens to oppose the move.

“Let them know that you value family time in a hectic age,” he wrote. “Let them know that you oppose SB 128.”

In his remarks to the members of the Chamber, Mr. Franchot said the school schedule has been used as a collective bargaining tool. Training days, half days and meetings reduce teaching time, so schools have started earlier in August, he said.

“As a teacher, I’m offended by this post,” Ellen Daniels said in response to Mr. Franchot’s statement online. “Our children’s education needs to be placed in this equation – don’t just focus on business.”

“It worked for schools and students when I was growing up,” Stacy Peach responded. “Back then, there were fewer professional days. I have my degree in education and in my opinion, there are too many professional days – days that teachers tend to relax and take the day off.”

If the bill passes, Mr. Franchot said Gov. Larry Hogan has the option to send the question to ballot for the state’s citizens to decide. For that to happen would require the collection of 80,000 signatures. Mr. Franchot asked the members of the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce to help if that task becomes necessary.

He spoke about his disapproval of the way in which decisions are being made in Maryland’s capital. “What’s going on in Annapolis is every bit of an abuse of power as what is happening in Washington,” Mr. Franchot said.

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