When Should The School Year End?

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Do you remember when summer vacation ended after Labor Day weekend? Throughout the years, this date, which had been set as an unwritten tradition, has changed. Only a few years ago, children were starting school as early as the third week of August and getting out for summer as late as the third week of June.

In September 2016, Governor Larry Hogan, acting on recommendations from a 2014 legislative task force and listening to the citizens of Maryland, issued an executive order to “let summer be summer.” This mandated that all Maryland public school districts start after Labor Day. In addition, the order dictated that the school year must conclude by June 15. Governor Hogan’s executive order went into effect beginning with the 2017-2018 school year.

The debate centering on this calendar change has not subsided in the past two years. Some parents say they like having a full summer to vacation with their children. Tourism dollars are spent during these last two weeks of summer, which equates to taxable income for the state of Maryland. On the flip side, some people feel that the number of educational days has been compromised by starting school after Labor Day. It is argued that teachers are not getting enough in-service days, and vacation days during the school year have been shortened. If this calendar requirement were removed, schools could be in session well into the summer to make up for snow days.

A Gonzales poll released in March 2019 reported that of the 817 people polled, 55.9 percent wanted schools closed through Labor Day, 40.1 percent favored local school boards to decide, and 3.9 percent had no answer.

This legislative session, Senate Bill 128 (County Boards of Education — School Year — Start and End Dates) was introduced to allow the individual school districts in Maryland to make their own decision whether or not to start their school year after Labor Day. This bill passed in the Senate along party lines by the vote of 31-15. Senate President Mike Miller reflected after the vote that “Maryland has a large minority population now … They’re not beating the doors down to run to Ocean City after Labor Day.” This bill moved onto the House of Delegates, where it was also passed along party lines, and it is now headed to the governor for his signature. There is no veto option for the governor because the votes are there to override the veto.

Governor Hogan had introduced legislation this session to put this question on the 2020 ballot as a referendum item. He wanted the citizens of Maryland to have the ultimate decision on whether or not to start the school year after Labor Day. His legislation was not heard in the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Anne Arundel County Public Schools has released a proposed 2019-2020 school calendar. The school year starts the day after Labor Day. This calendar is subject to modification by the Board of Education at any time.

Whether you are in favor of starting the school year before or after Labor Day, the General Assembly has the final say. The governor’s executive order has been overridden. Individual school districts will now be able to decide when to start the school year. If you have any thoughts on this topic or other pieces of legislation that might move through the legislature this session, contact me at edward.reilly@senate.state.md.us.

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