Photo above: Gov.-elect Larry Hogan, right, signs petition with Comptroller Peter Franchot.
“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys pounded in the staid assembly room of Maryland’s Treasury Building Thursday as Comptroller Peter Franchot and others gathered to collect the final signature on his year-long petition drive to “Let Summer Be Summer.”
“See you in September” might have been just as appropriate for the effort to require schools to start after Labor Day as Gov.-elect Larry Hogan became the 13,244th person to sign the petition since the drive started last in August on the boardwalk of Ocean City with a goal of 10,000 signatures.
Hogan stressed the impact on tourism and Maryland’s economy.
“It’s not just a family issue it’s an economic issue,” Hogan said. He referred back to his days as a teenager working at Ocean Playland during summer break.
“I can tell you that extra week for me, at a $1.35 an hour, made all the difference in the world,” he said. “There’s just no downside to this issue.”
The extra few days of summer are expected to generate $7.7 million through extra tourism alone.
Good for Ocean City
Mayor Rick Meehan of Ocean City said, “Starting school after Labor Day is not only good for Ocean City, but it’s good for the entire state…it provides small businesses, the heart of our tourist-based economy, a tremendous economic boost when it really needs it most. It also creates jobs and generates revenue for our state’s struggling economy.”
Tim Miller, president of National Premium beer based out of Baltimore, supports the move.
“You’re losing a lot of opportunity” by starting school halfway through August, Miller said.
“When I went to Salisbury University, half of us worked at the beach during the summers. I worked at the Carousel Hotel and they had a $500 bonus to incentivise us to stay through Labor Day.”
Miller also hopes to have the extra time to spend with his kids attending Talbot County schools. The added time to summer may help boost beer sales as well, with more cookouts and crab-feasts on the summer schedule, he said.
The importance of extra family time and cutting a break for small businesses was stressed by all the speakers.
“We didn’t start school before labor day and we all made it to where we are today”, joked Mayor Meehan in closing. “There just seems to be something a little bit un-American about going to school before Labor Day.”
Current state law sets a minimum number of school days, but does not establish school schedules, which are set by the local school boards, who are opposed to Franchot’s drive.
Key legislator opposed
At least one key legislator is also strongly opposed to the move.
In December, at a forum sponsored by the Maryland State Education Association, Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George’s Democrat who is the new vice chair of the Education, Health and Environmental Matters Committee, called the effort “ridiculous” and “substantively embarrassing.”
“There’s a bumper sticker that says ‘People before profit.” Well it’s kids before profit,” Pinsky said on a panel of legislators moderated by MarylandReporter.com Editor Len Lazarick.
“To pass a state policy to help a community, a business community, increase their profits is absurd. In fact, I believe we should be looking at year-round school. We should be looking at creative ways to engage students,” Pinsky said.