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Comptroller Franchot presses for later start of Md. School Year

8/22/13 | By Nancy Powell, Staff Writer/Ocean City Today

OCEAN CITY– Citing the benefits to Maryland families, small businesses and tourism overall, Comptroller Peter Franchot reiterated his desire for all state public schools to start classes after Labor Day. He released the economic impact report completed by the Bureau of Revenue Estimates regarding that issue last Wednesday.

Alongside Ocean City Mayor Richard Meehan, Sen. James N. Mathias Jr., Delegate Mike McDermott and numerous members of the local business community on the Boardwalk at the inlet, Franchot announced that a delayed school start in Maryland would create an additional $74.3 million in direct economic activity, including $3.7 million in new wages and a separate $7.7 million in state and local revenue.

“The chance for families to spend precious time together and to build lifelong memories during that final, end-of-summer vacation has been lost by the decision to begin school a week, or even 10 days, before Labor Day,” Franchot said. “Not only does this cut into the opportunity for Marylanders to spend more time together as a family, but it also has a negative impact on small businesses. In these tough economic times, we need to do all that we can to support small businesses and promote economic activity, not cause unnecessary harm to them for no apparent reason.”

The best part of having schools start after Labor Day is that it does not cost anything, the comptroller said.

“We just have to move the date,” he said. “It’s a win for businesses and families.”

Meehan said he wants Maryland residents to be able to take extended vacations with their families during the Labor Day holiday, just as they did when schools started after Labor Day.

“It was tradition and maybe it’s time to bring back that tradition,” Meehan said.

With nationally renowned vacation destinations like Ocean City, Deep Creek Lake and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, tourism is the fourth largest industry in Maryland. With Maryland welcoming over 32 million domestic travelers annually in recent years, the tourism sector employs more than 340,000 Marylanders. While Labor Day weekend in Maryland is most commonly associated with family trips to resort destinations, it also coincides with other major events occurring throughout the state, including the Maryland State Fair in Timonium, the Grand Prix of Baltimore and four weeknight home games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Instead of reducing the 180-day school year, the Comptroller is confident that the state’s school systems would be able to adjust their calendars throughout the academic year without losing time for instruction in the classroom. The flexibility of adjusting winter and spring breaks or eliminating some of the school closure dates scattered throughout the school calendar would be left to the each of Maryland’s 24 school systems.

“This isn't just necessary because of the $7.7 million in state and local tax revenue it would create for the priorities we care about, or the $74.3 million in direct economic activity it would generate in the midst of a sluggish recovery,” Franchot said. “Beyond the money or economic impact, it's about Maryland families who save up a little each paycheck in order to spend one week each year in Ocean City or Deep Creek Lake, or catch an Orioles game or visit the Maryland State Fair before the children return to school.”

Summer, he said, should mean summer and citizens should slow down and spend time with their children.

For Ocean City business owners, summer means a time to make money. Those businesses rely on summer tourism to fill their coffers.

“It’s a short season to start with,” said G. Hale Harrison of The Harrison Group.

Ocean City business owners also want a later start to the school year because many of their employees must leave work to return to school.

“We’re scrambling to keep the doors open,” said Royette Shepherd of Hooper’s Crab House in West Ocean City. “Let’s not talk about it, let’s make it happen.”

Delegate Mike McDermott said the later start to schools is a “jobs issue. The state ranks 41st when it comes to jobs and growth.” If schools start after Labor Day, people would have more opportunities for jobs and careers, he said.

“It’s such a no-brainer,” McDermott said. “I don’t even know why we study it. We should just do it.”

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