Gov. Larry Hogan has announced that Maryland's public schools will open their doors after Labor Day in future school years.
While students celebrate the last day of school, many parents dread the summer gap. For low-income families, an overlooked summer camp application deadline means missing subsidized day camp and enrichment program opportunities.
In Maryland, 180,000 children live in low-income working families, with 60 percent of these children living in a single-parent household. Unfortunately, vacationing in Ocean City is far from a reality for most families under Governor Hogan's extended summer recess. Instead, younger students will stay in the house either alone or under the supervision of an older sibling. Some parents might be lucky enough to find a willing neighbor who will keep an eye on the kids while they juggle low-paying jobs and the erratic schedules often associated with these positions.
In summer, school break expenditures can exacerbate a fragile, low-income household budget. The average family will spend $958 per child for summer enrichment activities. The cost of day camp averages $271 per week, and the most affordable summer camps fill quickly. Even when a parent finds an affordable camp, transportation may be a barrier. Correspondingly, if a parent has an hourly job there is typically even less flexibility, and camps often do not start early enough for parents to drop children off and arrive at work on time.
Although the governor's plan is expected to generate $7.7 million in additional tax revenue and $74 million dollars in economic activity, the plan places the interests of Ocean City business owners over the well-being of low-income students and the rest of the state. The governor overlooks the state's role as in loco parentis and has not, as he suggests, done what is in the best interest of all students. To support the best interest of students, the governor must work to close the summer academic gap that is particularly prevalent among low-income students. Adding weeks to the summer break without academic support exacerbates the situation.
A week at the beach, family vacations and meeting new friends at summer camp — these images are through the lens of families who can afford such lifestyles. Without additional local resources for summer enrichment programs, barriers to end poverty grow and the summer academic achievement gap continues to widen. Any extended summer recess should include allocating the anticipated $7.7 million in additional tax revenue to support free summer enrichment programs in schools that receive federal Title I money. This funding support can defray the expenses low-income parents incurred with the 10 to 12-week summer break.
There are many ways to do what is in the best interest of all Maryland students. An extended summer recess is not one of them.