Maryland school board member Chester Finn has sharply criticized Gov. Larry Hogan, less than 24 hours after the governor's latest executive order on starting school after Labor Day.
Finn, a Hogan appointee, called Hogan's order limiting school systems' ability to obtain waivers to start school before Labor Day "very bad education policy" in a blog post for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank he once led.
He added that it would leave little room for school districts to do what they believe is best for students. In his post on the blog called Flypaper, Finn said Hogan never consulted with the state board before requiring last month that school districts start school after Labor Day.
The governor's action essentially extended summer vacation to help Ocean City businesses during a peak beach-going weekend. Hogan has said the move will give families more time to spend together and help keep students out of unairconditioned schools for a week in August.
"Governor Hogan serves the people of Maryland and has very little concern or patience with the grumbles of grouchy bureaucrats who refuse to do what is best for students and families," said Douglass Mayer, Hogan's spokesman. "Ultimately, they are free to their own opinions, misguided as they are, but the governor will continue doing what is clearly right and what the vast majority of Marylanders want to see done."
The governor's original order said waivers could be granted by the state board for "compelling justification." The state school board responded by saying it would create a process to grant waivers to school districts at its October meeting. Many school districts said they were considering applying for a waiver.
But Hogan's new order Tuesday significantly narrowed which schools could apply for a waiver, limiting them to charters and schools with "innovative schedules." The new order appears to make it nearly impossible for entire districts to get waivers.
The governor's action has roiled local and state education officials, who see it as an attempt to usurp local control of school calendars. Only one school system in the state, Worcester County's public schools,has consistently started school after Labor Day.
It's not clear if any local school board will challenge the governor's order in court or whether the state legislature will take the matter up when it meets in January.
Michael A. Durso, president of the Montgomery County school board, said his panel hasn't had an opportunity to discuss a course of action or digest the governor's latest actions. His board had voted Monday to ask for a waiver.
"I would hesitate to say we have a real clear course of action," Durso said.
Whatever course local education officials take, it must happen quickly. Systems are racing to get their calendars for the next school year finalized in the next two months.
"Parents just want to know when is school going to start so they can plan accordingly," Durso said.
Even Finn doesn't have a view on what should happen next. "I am in a quandary about that," he said.
George Arlotto, Anne Arundel County's superintendent, was planning to recommend that the next school year start before Labor Day, but after the governor's action Tuesday, his spokesman Bob Mosier said, "We are simply trying to wade through the uncertainty and unrest in order to create a calendar that supports our students to the maximum extent possible."