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School start date up for debate, again

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot has long been a supporter of starting school after Labor Day and in January he picked up a new, key supporter of this proposal, Gov. Larry Hogan.

But educators across the state, including those in Howard County, have been steadfast against a change in recent years.

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The legislature will again debate this topic in the coming weeks, but how far it will advance is unknown.

For Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, a Democrat who represents parts of Howard and Baltimore counties, including Columbia and Catonsville, the economic incentive is not the bill's biggest draw.

Kasemeyer, who chairs the Senate's Budget and Taxation committee, said he supports delaying the start of school until after Labor Day because he's a "traditionalist."

He remembered vacationing with his family over the holiday weekend, before summer's freedom yielded to the responsibilities of the fall.

"When I was young, that's how we did things," Kasemeyer, 69, said.

So far, he's the only member of Howard County's state delegation to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill.

Franchot has said pushing the start of the school year back would mean millions of dollars in additional state tax revenue and economic activity.

Hogan announced his support for starting the school year after the Labor Day Holiday in January, pointing to the expected economic benefits. Hogan's predecessor, former Gov. Martin O'Malley, also supported the idea of starting the school year after Labor Day.

Howard County educators, however, oppose the proposal to start school after Labor Day.

"Starting school after Labor Day sounds plausible until you look at the details," Howard County Education Association President Paul Lemle said in a statement. "A delayed start would impact everything we do from professional development to reporting grades. It would also put Maryland's students at a disadvantage on AP tests, as peers from other states would have much more instruction before the nationally set test dates."

School systems are required to set a 180-instruction day calendar for students using input from the community. This year, Howard County public school students returned to class on Aug. 25, one week before Labor Day.

On Feb. 26, the Howard County Board of Education voted unanimously to oppose the legislation that would require school systems start school after Labor Day as part of its legislative package.

The board's legislative committee advised board members that with a high number of snow days, the school calendar could extend into late June or early July if school started after Labor Day.

The Maryland State Education has also opposed the proposal in previous years, saying it believes school start dates should be determined by local school boards.

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