Silver Spring resident Lauren Brownstein, whose daughter attends Westland Middle School, said the cost of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order to start the school year after Labor Day will take money out of her pocket.
“Gov. Hogan is giving me an additional week of summer vacation, but is he also giving me an additional week of income to cover child care?” Brownstein said.
“I’m fortunate that I can send my daughter to enriching activities through the summer, but a lot of low-income families can’t do that. [For them] it’s just another week of learning lost.”
When Hogan announced that starting “school after Labor Day is now the law of the land in Maryland,” at an Aug. 31 news conference, he called it “an economic and public safety issue that draws clear, strong, bipartisan support among an overwhelming majority of Marylanders.”
He said the extended summer break would help bring more money to Maryland’s tourist destinations such as Ocean City, where he made announcement.
The governor said that 70 percent of Marylanders support a post-Labor Day start, citing two Goucher College polls. In contrast, Montgomery County Public Schools had planned to start earlier in August 2017 than this year, when students returned on Aug. 29.
Hogan’s executive order also mandates a 180-day school year that must end by June 15.
Not everyone agrees with Hogan’s later start to the school year, which is also supported by state Comptroller Peter Franchot.
Mark Bleich is a Gaithersburg resident who opposes the order. The youngest of his three daughters will still be attending Montgomery County schools next fall, when the executive order takes effect.
“There are 24 counties in Maryland, and 23 start school before Labor Day,” said Bleich. “I think it takes a lot of chutzpah for the governor and the comptroller to order [these counties] to start after Labor Day.”
Michael Durso, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education, said the governor’s action “ignores critical issues faced by schools and the potential negative instructional impact on students,” according to his statement on the school system’s website.
The idea of starting school after Labor Day made the rounds in the Maryland General Assembly as Senate bill 767 earlier this year. Durso opposed the bill in a letter to the General Assembly, dated March 2.
“Maintaining local board authority on educational policies and administration is essential to the success of our public schools,” Durso wrote. “We firmly believe that local boards of education are best positioned to establish policies and operational processes.”
Chevy Chase resident Sherri Hammerman, whose children attend Chevy Chase Elementary and Westland Middle School, agreed. She called the executive order “a blanket ruling. I think every county has its own issues.”
Bethesda resident Jennifer Gaum, whose children attend Bradley Hills Elementary, sympathizes with the argument Brownstein raises about the cost of child care. But she supports the governor’s decision, citing the comptroller’s “let summer be summer” initiative.
“I think it’s important for kids to just be kids,” she said.
Sara Rosen, a Montgomery County teacher and mother of two, sees merits in both sides of the argument, but supports the governor’s decision. She said the schools’ increased reliance on testing is the reason that start dates have been creeping earlier into August.
“I don’t like having my children go back earlier in August just to attempt to bump up test scores,” said Rosen, in what she said was her personal view.
Meanwhile, the area’s Jewish day schools are considering what the executive order means to them. The order will not legally affect private schools, according to news reports. But Jewish day schools have traditionally followed the public school schedule.
Rabbi Mitchel Malkus, the head of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, said the school ultimately makes its own decisions.
“Given that it seems that there is uncertainty if the governor’s mandate is legal and is receiving criticism from Montgomery County, my sense is that this issue may not be resolved within the time we set next year’s calendar,” he said.
A spokesperson for Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy said it is too early to know whether the executive order will have an impact on its calendar decisions.