Starting next year, Maryland students will enjoy three extra days of holidays at the end of the summer to allow families to spend more quality time together before facing the daily grind of another school year.
Republican Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland has signed an executive order that requires schools within the state to begin the school year following Labor Day, an idea that has been considered in the past, but has not enacted.
Hogan made the announcement in Ocean City during a news conference and raised the point that:
"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."
According to a statement issued on the Governor's website, the move to change the beginning of the school year has previously received overwhelming support across the state.
Polling in 2014 and 2015 by Goucher College found that over 70% of Marylanders are in favour of the change and petitions in support of the matter have collected over 25,000 signatures.
The statement also claims that there are significant benefits to the economy as a direct result of starting the school year after Labor Day, with a 2013 study by Maryland's Bureau of Revenue Estimates identifying an additional $74.3 million in direct economic activity.
Critics have expressed their dissatisfaction over the change including the Democrat Senate President, Thomas V. Mike Miller who has questioned the legality of the executive order, reports NBC Washington.
Miller believes that it would have been more appropriate for the Governor to support legislation on the matter and consult with experts in education and local officials from around the state.
Some leaders in the Baltimore school system have also raised concerns over the change, especially on account of the 84% of students in the district who qualify for subsidized meals and who rely on the school system for at least 2 meals a day, reports Erin Cox and Liz Bowie of the Baltimore Sun.
Hogan faces a challenge on the order from the General Assembly, who are legally able to reverse his actions and have already called on the state attorney general to provide a legal opinion, reports The Washington Post.
Karl Alexander, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University, monitored Baltimore over two decades and found that, on average, students lose an average of two months of learning over the summer, of which the loss is greatest for students from low income families. These students usually do not have access to summer camps and other enriching activities, reports the Baltimore Sun.
Meanwhile, a report compiled in 2013 by a nonpartisan task force comprised of teachers, school board members, PTA members, public stakeholders, and administrators found that:
"[T]here was no compelling evidence that showed there was any impact on education starting post-Labor Day."
The task force voted 12-3 to recommend that schools begin after Labor Day.
The changes will begin from the start of the 2017-2018 school year and schools will continue to complete the mandatory 180 days by the end of June 15. Schools can apply for an exemption to the rule if necessary.
Hogan said legislators who reversed his order "would probably lose their jobs."