Larry Hogan

Gov. Larry Hogan.

The state education department is working on a system of letting local districts seek exemptions from a new gubernatorial mandate that schools start after Labor Day.

Maryland’s 24 school districts can apply for a waiver from the state education board to be excluded from a post-Labor Day start, newly mandated by an executive order from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Members of the Maryland State Board of Education asked the Maryland State Department of Education on Tuesday to draft guidance that will help specify for them and the local school districts how the waivers and the application process would work.

Calendar planning in local districts is underway for the 2017-18 school year, they said, when the order takes effect. The order also says school years must end by June 15.

Per the executive order, state board members cannot approve waiver requests without green-lighting a state regulation, which could take months to develop, creating a tight timeline for the districts, board President Andy R. Smarick said.

“I view this guidance as the first step,” Smarick said in a Tuesday night phone call.

The executive order states that local districts must offer “compelling justification” to be granted a waiver, which has yet to be defined. Waivers must be approved annually by the state board.

State board members — some of whom Hogan appointed — bristled over the governor’s possible encroachment on their authority.

“When I see people outside of the organization setting direction that has impact on the quality of life of these young people, it raises for me the gravest concerns,” said board Vice President S. James Gates Jr., who was not a Hogan appointee. “While we recognize the governor is certainly an important citizen in our state, that doesn’t mean we simply have to become a rubber stamp.”

Chester E. Finn Jr., who was appointed by the governor in 2014, called restricting the calendar options for school districts “a bad idea” and said calendar decisions should remain with local school districts.

Stephanie R. Iszard, another Hogan appointee, said the board respects the authority of the governor, but the state board is in charge of Maryland’s students.

Smarick said in the meeting that the board should consider the precedent that Hogan’s executive order sets.

He said in a later interview that the governor’s office gave the board some notice that it was considering pushing for a post-Labor Day start.

Board members were not provided an embargoed copy of the executive order and received it along with the rest of the public shortly after Hogan’s announcement Aug. 31.

State board members voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of getting guidance from the State Department of Education.

Generally, local districts submit waivers to the state superintendent, who provides them to the board, department spokesman Bill Reinhard said.

Laura E. Weeldreyer, whom Hogan appointed in 2015, said the evidence against a post-Labor Day start is monumental. She listed a number of common criticisms that local school district leaders and the teachers union have aired against Hogan and his order.

Students’ academics may deteriorate in the summertime, and extending summer by roughly two weeks could burden low-income students and their families, she said.

“It is distressing in terms of the content and the sort of the evidence basis that this order sort of ignored,” Weeldreyer said.

She said the executive order may disrupt school districts’ processes of calendar planning, so the board wanted to move forward as quickly as possible with approving the waivers. The State Education Department will begin developing regulations on waivers to be voted on at a future meeting.

Douglass Mayer, a spokesman for Hogan’s office, emphasized that no waiver can be approved without a regulation in place. He said that the governor appreciated the board members’ work and they were “free to have their own opinions.”

In response to some of the arguments Weeldreyer referenced, Mayer said a state task force formed by then-Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, and legislative leaders studied a post-Labor Day start date and delved into these issues. That committee voted 12-3 in favor of starting school after Labor Day.

Supporters of the post-Labor Day start, including Comptroller Peter Franchot, often cite its popularity among Marylanders and economic benefits for the state.

A Franchot spokesman, Alan Brody, also referenced the task force, noting that the membership of the task force was appointed by O’Malley and legislative leaders. He said that polls indicate the public still supports the policy.

Lawmakers requested a formal opinion from the state attorney general’s office on whether Hogan legally used an executive order.

No opinion has been produced. However, a lawyer from the attorney general’s office wrote in a lengthy letter that while he could not “unequivocally” say that Hogan had exceeded his authority, a court “likely” would rule that way.

Follow Jeremy Bauer-Wolf on Twitter: @jbeowulf

(11) comments

save1more4jesus

So now more money is spent to do the wavier, taken from education money. Make them show the cost.

jerseygrl42

the tempest in a teapoy continues all because our GOV is a republican....how silly...3 out of 4 CITIZENS wanted this to get done and he did it!

shiftless88

all of a sudden Jersey is just fine with executive orders

public-redux

Sounds kind of like...local control.

des21

Yes, if the people in a system- not just the teachers- want to start after Labor Day it should be done. Hogan is facilitating local control- ie., the will of the people.

public-redux

Not sure how a state board exercising veto power over a local board facilitates local control.

des21

If that local board is tied to special minority interest that are defying majority opinion it certainly is. Right?

DickD

This whole thing is a lot of nonsense, they worry about taking too many days off during the summer, then disrupt the whole school year with all of their time off. It is better to have 180 days more contiguous than the present. As far as the students are concerned, the State Board is already making decisions without considering them, this is a bunch of hooey.

pappyjoe

I love after reading the article how the update to the story was there. Saying the BOE was just STARTING the process to review. Seems Peter Franchot (Democrat or Republican) did not list which side of the fence he was on. Peter must also be just starting a process to review which wagon to jump on now :). Hey kids (ones currently in school) ask grandma or grandpa how it felt to have off until after Labor day. For God sakes the pools are still at the old school schedule but little Bobby and little Susie can not enjoy it really until a week after they open and then a week before closing for the season. More Quality time with the kids parents or is that what is trying to be avoided. If we are going to get this Country back in shape this, is a good starting point. More QUALITY time with your children. The DemoBrats had to get the FNP to do the update of this story. Shame on you coffer picking bunch of spenders. What are we now 100 zillion dollars in the hole? The DemoBrats are using excuses of the poor population saying: they won`t get fed. They have a program to feed them after school is out at the current schedule remember! go donald and mike go! Go Donald and Mike go!! Goooo Donald and Mike Gooooooooooo!!!!!

DickD

Peter Franchot is the State of Maryland Comtroller, a Democrat, he supports and has attempted to get the schools started after Labor Day for sometime. There is no conflict between him and Hogan.

What in H does Donald have to do with this, are you just plain nuts?

phydeaux994

pappyjoe, anyone who believes that The Donald could govern anything after the debacle, uh, I mean debate, is delusional. The people of Frederick County who vote for Trump are the same people who voted for Kirby, Billy and Tony. They thought they could govern and soon found out the truth. They can't and Trump can't.

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