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Maryland Task Force Recommends Starting School After Labor Day

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A task force convened by the Maryland General Assembly is recommending to Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley that the state require districts to start the school year after Labor Day, in spite of educator opposition to the idea.

After nearly a year of meetings on the issue, the Task Force to Study a Post Labor Day Start Date just released its final report. The task force argues that the move would give the state's tourism industry a boost while having little impact on education.

Fourteen years ago, six Maryland school systems started classes after Labor Day. Last year, no systems did, with start dates ranging from Aug. 19 to Aug. 27.

Currently, local school systems' calendar planning committees, comprised of administrators, teachers, parents, union representatives, and business owners, choose their own start dates. As the task force noted in its report, all 24 local school superintendents, the state superintendent, union representatives, the Maryland Association of Boards of Education, and the Public School Superintendents' Association of Maryland are opposed to giving up local control of the school calendar.

Representatives of these groups said their communities have local needs that they design their calendars to support. They also expressed concern that starting later might make it harder to schedule teacher in-service days; coordinate students' dual enrollment in college courses; and offer 180 days of school by June 30 when there were a large number of snow days.

The task force, however, was apparently swayed by reports from Maryland, Minnesota, South Carolina, and Tennessee arguing that later school start dates increase state revenues.

An August 2013 economic impact study conducted by Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and the Bureau of Revenue Estimates found that delaying the start of the school year would result in $74.3 million worth of economic activity and generate about $7.7 million in new state and local government revenues, because families would spend more on summer activities. The bureau estimated that 8.5 percent of Maryland families with school-age children would take another day or overnight trip in Maryland and an additional 5.2 percent of families would squeeze in one more out-of-state trip.

"It's one of the traditions we should bring back," Franchot said last year, according to the Baltimore Sun. "I almost think starting school before Labor Day is un-American."

If Maryland policymakers agree, legislation or an executive order will be needed to implement a statewide post-Labor Day start.

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