ANNAPOLIS — Students sat in the state Senate gallery on Tuesday and looked down at lawmakers as they debated one last time whether Maryland schools should be able to open before Labor Day.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller acknowledged the onlooking students as Minority Leader J.B. Jennings (R-Baltimore & Harford) began the third and final floor discussions of the bill, in which Jennings asked rhetorically if the chamber should ask the students their opinion first. Senators could only discuss, not amend, the bill Tuesday.

“Mr. President, I know the vote, what it’s going to be. I’m willing to put money on the table of what I think it will be. But, I do know the public opinion, that they don’t want this,” Jennings said.

The majority of the senators, however, did want to see Maryland’s 24 school jurisdictions again be able to set the date for the first day of school.

In a vote of 31-13, with three excused absences, the Senate passed SB 128 to enable the state’s school districts to select a start date without regard to Labor Day. The bill will now advance to the House of Delegates.

Frederick County’s two representatives in the state Senate were divided on the issue. Sen. Ron Young (D-Frederick) voted with the majority in favor to the change, while Sen. Michael Hough (R-Frederick & Carroll) offered a scathing rebuke of the decision after the vote.

“I have little faith — unfortunately, I must say — in our local school, because they have proven they could not put together a coherent calendar,” Hough said. “Just as they have not been able to figure out what is a snow day or not, because yesterday our school closed for rain in Frederick County.”

As a parent, Hough said he preferred the school calendars crafted following the 2016 executive order by Gov. Larry Hogan (R), which required all schools in Maryland to start after Labor Day. Hogan has strongly opposed the Legislature’s attempt to change the law this session, and said any school board that wants a pre-Labor Day start date should be required to put it to a vote on a local ballot.

Those in favor of the bill argued the flexibility to start before Labor Day would help each county’s Board of Education better accommodate religious holidays and snow days, which vary across the state.

Sen. Delores Kelley (D-Baltimore) also said changing the governor’s mandate to start after Labor Day would return choice to the schools.

Sen. Justin Ready (R-Carroll) said he was happy to hear his Democratic colleagues’ concern for choice and local control. However, he criticized them on past state legislation that passed down local mandates, and future local mandates that will come from the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission.

“I don’t think the argument that ‘we don’t want to tell the counties what to do’ isn’t necessarily a good one here. It’s one I’m actually sympathetic to, because it’s something I wish we would have the attitude to more often about much bigger things we’ve done in the past,” Ready said.

Hough argued the schools had repeatedly failed to craft good calendars before Hogan’s order.

“I believe in local control, but at some point when the locals have shown they could not competently do the calendar — when they start school on Aug. 22 and have the kids go back for two or three days of that first week — that’s nonsensical,” Hough told the chamber.

A pre-Labor Day start for schools in Maryland is still far from being set in stone. The bill will next go to the House of Delegates, where it will go through another public process in committee before facing possible amendments in the chamber.

The House of Delegates could modify or oppose the bill, though, it appears there are enough votes to pass it.

If it does pass the second chamber, the governor will have an opportunity to veto or — as he announced last week — have the people take the decision to a petition for referendum, which is the right of all voters to gather signatures in support or opposition to a bill passed by the General Assembly.

The petition would need to collect signatures from at least 3 percent of all registered voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election — in this case, 2018 — in order to pass.

Follow Samantha Hogan on Twitter: @SAHogan.

Samantha Hogan is the state house, environment, agriculture and energy reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

(39) comments

richardlyons

Michael Hough; weatherman NOT!

HappySeller2014

Just heard about some folks on Catoctin Mountain, Braddock Mountain and South Mountain.

According to them, the rumors that rain supplanted ice on their doorsteps is unfounded. If anyone needs proof, contact Potomac Edison and ask them for the locations of their repair activities since Sunday evening.

HappySeller2014

Hough cracks me up. Rain? How about solid sheet of ice all along the western border of Frederick County these past three days.

Hough needs to look past the two inches in front of his nose on these issues. I thought he was a parent. Did he not see all the power outages, downed trees, black ice all over the place the last 48 hours? On Monday. On Tuesday. Even today on Wednesday.

FCPS made exactly the right calls over the past few days. So as a parent, I am very pleased with FCPS' actions.

As for Hough, he remains the reason everyone east of Sykesville refers to us as "Fredneckians." This guy represents us and he cannot even tell the difference between rain and ice in Frederick County. Next time. I recommend placing a call to Ptomac Edison to see how bad the weather is. Like Waffle House, Potomac Edison can prevent oneself from making a fool of oneself.

Nice "let them eat cake" moment. Come on Hough. Don't you have more serious work and comments to make on behalf of us Frederick County Fredneckians? Stop being a partisan hack and think before you speak.

ResUrbana

I grew up with schools starting after Labor Day & ending mid-June. I never understood the push to have schools start before Labor Day. Other than maybe the teachers union wanting more teacher work days. One teacher told me if you’re efficient, you don’t even need a full teacher work day go get things done. I’d really like to know why things changed over the years.

Hayduke2

Based on your comment, you obviously don't understand that the number of teacher work days is the same regardless of start time as is the number of days kids attend school. Quit the teacher union bashing and made up junk.

pappyjoe

When and if it ever comes to a vote the kids should be allowed to gather around the voting machine with each parent, to see what their vote is.

FrederickFan

Teachers and educators in general, at all levels, all across Frederick County, have little faith in Hough either. Except that he will vote against the best interests of education every time.

senorris

I agree. And there was plenty of ice on the roads when he complained about only rain.

KellyAlzan

i Didn’t like school. College was more funner.

HappySeller2014

College was the funnest, Yes Siree!

acmcclain

Not once are the students mentioned in this article and how it affects them. Isn't that what is most important?

des21

No. Get with it would you![wink] Should be but not for some time. Try parochial school.

DickD

I agree with Hough a little rain, but Hough is ignoring the down limbs, trees, power lines and freezing rain that made it treacherous to drive.  So, the schools made the right decision.  

Now as far as changing the school year, that was just to make more money for the Ocean City merchants,  That decision is better left up to the schools.  Isn't it the Republicans that want less government, but now they want to force this down or throats.

As far as a referendum, I would vote to leave it up to the schools.

Comment deleted.
DickD

[thumbup][thumbup]

DickD

I agree with Hough on the school closing, but if you were out driving and saw all the down limbs, trees and power lines you would realize it was a good decision.  

What makes me ponder is the right  wing Republicans wanting to control all of the schools for a few dollars Ocean City might make.  It means the whole State has to suffer for Ocean City's profits.  Aren't the Republicans the ones that want "less" government?  Now if it comes to a referendum, I will vote  for the schools to set the dates, not the Governor.

Comment deleted.
mhough

My quote is from a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday and I am referring to Monday’s closure.

Comment deleted.
mhough

H

softball28

In my part of Frederick County Senator Hough it was not rain, but ice. It only takes one unfortunate event to lose a precious life. You willing to take that risk being your a parent, I'm not.

trwz

[thumbup]

richardlyons

Don't confuse the good senator with facts.

DickD

Amen![thumbup]

vjhughes

[thumbup]

micky

Simply a case of "stick it to the Governor"

shiftless88

I think it was the other way around. The Governor signed an executive order to stick it to the non-eastern shore school districts

richardlyons

[lol]

Reader1954

we all know that opening after Labor Day is about Ocean City make money. Why not make June an open-ended month where instead of having a set in stone end day. Meaning that any days lost throughout the year can be added to June. That way the state can make its required 180 days of school by adding to the ending date in June if necessary. There will be no pressure to open schools in bad weather in order to make the 180 requirement. The schools could be able to set an ending date by the end of March as our bad weather and most of the reasons for closing are over and and necessary days could be added to June.

whodthink

Because some of us would prefer to summer vacation in June rather than August. Why should Ocean City's economy dictate the school calendar in Frederick County?

vjhughes

[thumbup]

des21

Yes, so the state takes in more revenue to pay people like me and Hayduke without raising your taxes. Win-win.

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