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Comptroller Franchot presses for later start of Md. School Year

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.”