As an educational consultant and adjunct faculty member at Towson University, I read with dismay state Comptroller Peter Franchot's suggestion that all Maryland public schools should begin after Labor Day ("Post-Labor Day school start pushed as economic benefit, Aug. 15).

He suggested two reasons for this, the first being that a later school opening would encourage more Maryland families to take another vacation at the ocean or in one of the resorts in Western Maryland, which would increase the revenues for businesses in those areas. He stated that 8.5 percent of families would do just that. There was no indication, however, that those families would take an additional trip; it's quite likely that many families would simply take their vacation later in the summer if their children's school schedule made that possible. What about the other 91.5 percent?

The second reason Mr. Franchot suggested for the change was the families would want this. He glossed over the impact for families (particularly those with limited means) who would need to find additional child care for their children, which is a burden for families.

Nowhere in the suggestion was any attention paid to children's learning. Shouldn't that be our first priority? For almost 60 years, we have endeavored in the U.S. to compete with other nations in terms of the quality of education. Most indicators are that we are not succeeding and that the educational systems in many other developed nations surpass ours in terms of student achievement. While there are many reasons for this, one significant factor is the extended summer vacation which is typical of most U.S. schools, but which is not the practice in those other nations.

There is solid research which indicates that children actually lose knowledge and skills during the summer vacation and many teachers typically spend the first six weeks or so of each school year reviewing material from the previous year. If we are to succeed in improving our nation's schools, we should be considering shortening the summer break, not lengthening it, as Mr. Franchot suggests.

Barbara Payne Shelton, Riderwood