Maryland legislators have taken a significant step toward undoing Gov. Larry's Hogan's 2016 order that public schools begin their academic year after Labor Day.
The Baltimore Sun reports that the Maryland House of Delegates has followed the state Senate in approving a bill returning power to local school boards to decide when the school year begins.
The Democratic majority of lawmakers still must reconcile some details of the legislation. But because both chambers passed the legislation by margins large enough to override a veto, the governor was left with little to counter the latest blow in a years-long political fight over school calendars.
Some school district officials are looking at revising calendars for the 2019-20 school year, which were approved last fall.
Some districts have openly opposed Hogan’s edict. Anne Arundel County school officials complained that it cut into time for spring break and parent-teacher conferences.
Baltimore city schools officials say they will explore whether any schedule changes “could benefit students and staff.”
“Should this legislation become law, at minimum it will improve the district’s ability to schedule for snow days without needing to remove important opportunities for teacher professional learning or infringe on holiday breaks,” city schools spokeswoman Anne Fullerton says.
Hogan and House Republican leaders accuse Democrats of political jockeying. They note that a state commission recommended starting school after Labor Day.
But critics of the post-Labor Day mandate have said it harms poor children who can’t afford to use extra summer vacation to travel or attend camps and who rely on free or reduced meals at schools.
Cheryl Bost, the president of the Maryland State Education Association, says the union believes local school boards should design the calendars for their communities with input from the public.
The governor’s initiative, she says, put tourism ahead of education.
Since Hogan’s executive order, settling on a school calendar has gotten trickier. It requires schools to start after Labor Day, finish by June 15, and fit in 180 days of instruction.
In many districts, spring break was shortened to a three-day weekend, and students attend classes on President’s Day and Easter Monday. In some cases, officials have reduced the number of professional development days.