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Hogan School Calendar Decision Sparking Manufactured Outrage

Posted: September 7, 2016 at 5:06 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

Mark UncapherBy Mark Uncapher

As the Washington Post reports: “Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan triggered one of the biggest firestorms of his tenure last week when he ordered schools to start classes after Labor Day beginning next year.”

On the last day of August the Governor signed an Executive Order requiring Maryland’s public schools to start classes after Labor Day, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year.  In making his announcement he was joined by Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot, education advocates and other longtime supporters of a post-Labor Day school start.

Citing the benefits of a post-Labor Day school start for families, students, teachers, and the economy, the governor made the announcement on the Ocean City Boardwalk, saying:

“Starting Maryland public schools after Labor Day is not just a family issue – it’s an economic and public safety issue that draws clear, strong, bipartisan support among an overwhelming majority of Marylanders….Comptroller Franchot and I believe, and the people of Maryland strongly agree, that this Executive Order puts the best interests of Marylanders first, especially the well-being of our students. This action is long overdue, and it is simply the right thing to do.”

The fierce response from some quarters seems proof positive that summer’s political and media “silly season” remains in full force.

A spokesman for the Maryland State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union claimed that “Cutting back the school year and extending summer is not a solution to any education problem—it’s just another Gov. Hogan school cut.”  Hopefully MSEA’s spokesman is never, ever let anywhere near a Maryland mathematics classroom, since the number of required teaching days – 180 with a minimum of 1,080 school hours during a 10-month period in each school years remains unchanged.

Not to be outdone by the teachers union, Montgomery County Board Of Education President Michael Durso told the Washington Post the calendar change “ignores critical issues faced by schools and the potential negative instructional impact on students.”

Durso’s shrill comments ignore the conclusion on an O’Malley era non-partisan task force comprised of teachers, administrators, school board members, PTA members, and legislators. They concluded that education would not be impacted by starting school after Labor Day.  O’Malley’s panel said it: “determined that there was no compelling evidence that showed there was any impact on education starting post-Labor Day… there was no quantifiable evidence that a post-Labor Day start is harmful to local schools systems.”

Montgomery County Democratic Senator Rich Madaleno was recorded in the media as posting on Facebook: “Today’s action was not about our kids, family vacations, or the Ocean City economy. It was about Hogan’s continual fixation with punishing public school teachers.” Completely missing his tirade is any explanation as to how starting school after Labor Day is a “punishment.”  Madaleno is nothing if not steadfast in his dogged determination to always equate the interests of education and individual teachers to whatever the Maryland State Education Association says.

However the real topper in over-the-top hyperbole comes, naturally on the editorial page of the Baltimore Sun,  in a piece by Montgomery County Democrat  Delegate Eric Luedtke, titled “Hogan and Franchot: Profiles in Pandering.”   The headline’s reference to “pandering” acknowledges that the calendar change is popular with Marylanders.  A 2015 poll by Goucher College poll found 72% of Maryland residents supported a statewide mandate to require schools to begin after Labor Day.

Yet Luedtke’s piece never gets around to providing an actual policy reason for opposing the change, let alone a moral argument against a post-Labor Day school start supporting his “pandering” charge.

Less than a week after the announcement, OpinionWorks poll concluded that Gov. Larry Hogan maintains a 71% approval rating among Maryland registered voters, including 63% of Democrats.   The poll’s field work ended the day before the school calendar announcement.  Yet the Governor clearly remains in better touch with what Marylanders expect from their state than are his legislative and special interest critics.