As Democrats seek to override his executive order forcing Maryland’s public schools to wait until after Labor Day to start classes, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan pledged Wednesday to fight back with a referendum.
Democratic lawmakers are advancing a bill that returns the decision of when to start the school year to local school boards. The measure moved out of committee by a 7-4 vote along party lines Tuesday and is headed to the Senate floor Thursday morning.
But Hogan argued the public will overrule the lawmakers if they overrule him. He cited public opinion surveys in favor of the later school start and called the move one of the two most popular things he’s done as governor along with cutting tolls.
“I can’t imagine where this kind of idiocy comes from?” Hogan said of the bill. “I believe the legislature is going to take this action. And there is a 100 percent chance this will be overturned by the public with a referendum that will pass by 70 or 80 percent and they will all say if they’re ever re-elected, ‘I’m really sorry I did that stupid thing.’ ”
The governor said he would hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, ahead of the Senate’s vote. Democrats have a super-majority in the General Assembly.
Hogan and Maryland’s Democratic leaders have fought since 2016 over when to start the school year since the governor announced his executive order, which directs school officials to delay the start of classes until after Labor Day and to wrap up by June 15.
Hogan and ally Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat, have argued the longer summer recess gives families more time together and generates more revenue for the tourism industry. But opponents contend the move causes problems for families in need of finding child care during the summer, and creates difficulties for jurisdictions trying to juggle teacher development days, spring break, religious holidays and snow days.
State Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat who is sponsoring the legislation, said his bill doesn’t mandate an earlier start to the school year — it just lets local counties decide.
“I don’t know why he’s afraid to give it to these local boards of education,” Pinsky said. “The people who are for the bill are teachers, parents and educators. The people who opposed it are the comptroller, Ocean City and the hotel industry. What does that tell you?”
Sen. Nancy King, a co-sponsor of the bill, brushed off Hogan’s call for a referendum as “silly” and unnecessary.
King, a Democrat who served eight years on Montgomery County’s school board, said a universal post-Labor Day start might sound great on the surface but that the realities are more complicated.
“If you ask anybody if they want to start after Labor Day, of course they do,” she said. “But if you say you might not have spring break next year … I think people look at it differently.”
King said she met with Hogan last week about the bill and had a “nice conversation,” even though they disagreed on the policy and Hogan predicted: “None of you will ever get elected again if you pass this bill.”
“Even though the governor would like to make it about him, it’s not about him,” King said. “It’s about local decisions.”