The right idea but with the wrong approach

September 4, 2016 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off 

I find the controversy over Governor Hogan’s executive order mandating that Maryland public schools begin classes after Labor Day and wrap up by the following June 15 to be a good opportunity for commentary, so I decided to add my couple pennies.

First of all, this isn’t a new idea. In 2015 and 2016 legislation was introduced in the Maryland General Assembly to create a similar mandate. As proof of how Annapolis works, the 2015 versions only got House and Senate hearings but the 2016 versions picked up the remaining local House delegation as sponsors (only Delegates Mary Beth Carozza and Charles Otto were local co-sponsors in 2015) and got a Senate committee vote. (It failed on a 5-5 tie, with one of the Republicans on the committee being excused. The other two voted in favor.) There was a chance this legislation may have made it through in 2017, but apparently Hogan was unwilling to take the risk. He took the opportunity to make a news event at a perfect time – when most local districts were already a week or two into school, Larry announced this from the Ocean City boardwalk on a pleasant beach day – and showed he was willing to stand up for one of his principles, that being improving opportunities for small business. (At a minimum, with Hogan’s edict kids are off for 11 weeks for summer vacation.)

In reality, what Hogan has done is shift the calendar backward by about a week: for example, Wicomico County public school kids had their last day of school June 9 and returned August 29 and 30. But the thought process is that families are more likely to take a vacation in July and August than they are in June, so because Ocean City is a great tourist attraction the state should follow Worcester County’s lead and begin school after Labor Day. (They simply went an extra week into June, concluding on June 17 this year.)

Granted, our family has enjoyed a post-Labor Day start for a number of years since parochial schools have more calendar flexibility: our child began her summer vacation after classes ended June 3 and returns on Tuesday the 6th. Growing up, I seem to recall the city schools I attended began after Labor Day and went into June but the rural school I graduated from began classes in late August and was done by Memorial Day. (We had a longer Labor Day weekend, though, because our county fair runs that weekend and the Tuesday after Labor Day was Junior Fair Day. Thirty-odd years later, it still is.) The point is that each of these localities knows what works best, so I can understand the objection from those who advocate local control of school schedules. And talk about strange bedfellows: I’m sure many of those praising Hogan’s statewide mandate locally are also those who have fought for local control of our Board of Education - after at least ten years of trying, we finally have a chance for local control (as opposed to appointments by the Governor) over our Board of Education through a referendum this November. (I recommend a vote for the fully-elected Option 2 on Question A.)

So I agree with the objections on those grounds, even though I personally think a post-Labor Day start is a good idea based on the school calendar typically used. (If I truly had my way, though, we would adopt a 45-15 style plan so that summer break is somewhat shorter and kids spend less time relearning what they forgot over the break.) What I don’t see as productive are those who whine about how this would affect preparation for particular tests – that shouldn’t be the overall goal of education. Obviously they would be the first to blame the calendar (and by extension, Larry Hogan) if test scores went down. But Hogan’s not alienating a group that was squarely in his corner anyway, as the teachers’ unions almost reflexively endorse Democrats, including his 2014 opponent, and mislead Marylanders about education spending. It’s increased with each Hogan budget - just not enough to fund every desire the teachers have.

Come January, it will be interesting to see if the Democrats attempt to rescind this executive order through legislative means, daring Hogan to veto it so they can override the veto and hand him a political loss a year out from the election. While most Marylanders are fine with the change, the Democrats are beholden to the one political group that seems to object and those special interests tend to call the tune for the General Assembly majority.

Yet the idea that the state feels the need to dictate an opening and closing date to local school districts is just another way they are exerting control over the counties. We object when they tell us how to do our local planning, so perhaps as a makeup for this change our governor needs to rescind the PlanMaryland regime in Annapolis.

Out and about

The nice thing about having a tourist mecca nearby is the opportunity to get a political message out. While the Worcester County Republicans already have a billboard in place along the most busy north-south highway on Delmarva (U.S. 13) they’re also getting a lot of thumbs-up from people on the Boardwalk in Ocean City.

And Dan Bongino volunteers seem to be leading the charge!

I have a couple of observations on these two photos.

First of all, I wish Don Stifler, who forwarded these pictures to me, had added a helpful guide so I know who these women are. I presume they’re among the best and brightest that Worcester County Republicans have to offer, but I can’t give credit where credit is due because, quite honestly, I’m not good with faces and names. That’s why I write.

Secondly, I have to ask where the guys are? Come on, this IS the Boardwalk and I think there’s plenty to look at. Maybe that’s what they are doing.

But in the note which accompanied these pictures I’m told that they received accolades or thumbs up from at least one person hailing from all 23 of Maryland’s counties – along with Baltimore City, of course – and even one visitor from Key West, Florida.

Yet there is a wider point or two to be made among all these pictures. While I didn’t see any visitors at the table, it appears that the GOP is drawing interest from Republicans and thoughtful unaffiliated voters or members of other parties around the state who are presumably happy to see representation along the Boardwalk. Honestly, I don’t know if they had a similar location in 2010 or 2008 but what counts is that the two statewide campaigns as well as Andy Harris are flying their flag, so to speak, in this location. (I also don’t know if the Democrats are doing the same thing on the Boardwalk, if they are chances are it’s more of a low-key presence based on another Worcester County event.)

Obviously the conventional wisdom is that Maryland is such a dark blue state that being a Republican consigns you to a lifetime of electoral misery. But in order to change that, someone has to show we have not been buried upside down and will return before the ten-year statute of limitations decreed by Mike Miller. Wouldn’t it be sweet to win a couple statewide races and remind him of those words?

That’s what we’re working for. It may take some time, but as Dan Bongino says, “we cede no ground.” I don’t either.

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