On the second floor of the State House in Annapolis, April Fools’ Day arrived 63 days early.
At least that’s the most logical explanation behind Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement during Wednesday morning’s Board of Public Works meeting (always a preferred rant time for governors past and present). He promised he would submit legislation to mandate that all Maryland K-12 public schools set their calendars so that doors open after Labor Day and never before.
If this sounds like a familiar issue, it should. He signed an executive order accomplishing the same thing, which the General Assembly reversed through legislation. Mr. Hogan subsequently vetoed that bill, and lawmakers then voted to override his veto by a vote of 32-15 in the Senate and 93 to 43 in the House of Delegates. Both of those votes were well past the three-fifths minimum. Ring a bell, now? It was just last March.
So here are the possible reasons why a governor who just suffered a stinging defeat on a measure would want to set himself up for another stinging defeat:
A.) He’s a glutton for punishment (unlikely).
B.) He thinks there’s a whole different group of men and women in the House and Senate with entirely different views about forcing local school systems to comply with an arbitrary school start date since late March of last year (there aren’t).
C.) The issue has fundamentally changed in 10 months (nope).
D.) He’s putting us on.
Good one, Governor Hogan.
Of course, it’s also possible, if even more unlikely, that he just wants to continue to campaign on this idea because he perceives it as politically popular. Yes, there are polls that show that when people are asked should school start before or after Labor Day, they gravitate to the later. But then a curious thing happens. When people are given the responsibility of deciding school calendars (let’s call these people local “boards of education”), and they get all the facts — like how longer summers are harmful to learning; how snow days, government holidays, voting days and teacher training days have to fit the calendar; how parents like winter and spring breaks to be longer than two or three days; or how preparing for Advanced Placement testing (where students can earn college credit) is compromised by the later start — they will often choose a pre-Labor Day opening. Oh, that logic and reasoning, it’s a party-pooper.
Maryland school systems have already been moving to take advantage of the earlier opening in their proposed 2020-2021 calendars now that Mr. Hogan’s executive order no longer holds them back. The law didn’t require them to open early, they just saw the wisdom of it. The list includes Montgomery County, the state’s largest system. In an online survey, most of their parents support the choice.
But, seriously, do people really believe Mr. Hogan is so cynical that he’d want to make some big push for the post-Labor Day statewide mandate knowing it was DOA in the State House simply to fire up lightly-informed supporters? We used to think he did it just to curry favor with Comptroller Peter Franchot, his swing vote on the Board of Public Works who is an even more enthusiastic supporter of the idea and usually frames it in terms of getting teens to work temporary jobs in Ocean City beyond mid-August. But that relationship seems to have cooled a bit, likely because of Mr. Franchot’s reluctance to get on board Governor Hogan’s $11 billion I-270/Capital Beltway toll lanes plan. Or maybe because the comptroller, technically a Democrat, has designs on winning the Democratic primary for governor in 2022 and figures the buddy-buddy stuff doesn’t play well with primary voters.
That leaves April Fools’ Day. One assumes in a couple of days the governor will drop the pretense, say something like “Surprise! Maryland April Fools’ two months early! Did you really think I meant it?” And then we can all get a good laugh and marvel at how anyone could possibly have believed that an issue that got spanked on the Senate and House floors less than one year ago was going to be magically resurrected because, well, just because.