On Monday, November 2, Goucher’s Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center sponsored the inaugural Hughes Policy Forum, which took place in the Athenaeum. The topic of this forum was the proposed post-Labor Day start for Maryland public schools. For those interested in the policy making process, education and business, this forum was a great way to see how these decisions are made and al- lowed for various viewpoints to be shared with the public
The forum began with an introduction by Dr. Mileah Kromer,Director of the Hughes Field Politics Cen- ter and Professor of Political Science. State Comptroller Peter Franchot then took the stage and expressed his position on the matter. Franchot is the key policy maker behind this initiative, and he is in
favor of the post-Labor Day start. He believes that it is the “common sense” decision and strongly stated that it gives a break for families and teachers. Franchot also thinks there is a positive economic impact, a sentiment with which many other panelists agreed. Right now, more than 70 percent of the public supports this proposal.
The six panelists that spoke during the forum all came from different perspectives, which made for a well-rounded discussion. Nicole Christian, President and CEO of Garrett County Chamber of Commerce, said “the education of public school children would not be harmed” by this later start day. She also said that from a tourist point of view, it would greatly increase revenue and added wages because the last two weeks of August have huge economic activity. Matt Teffeau, Assistant Government Relations Director of the Maryland Farm Bureau, said this is also an issue with the farming industry, and more people would be able to work out in the farms with the later start.
Even with these positive effects, not everyone agrees this initiative is a good idea. Maryland State Senator Paul Pinsky is against it. He said that the great demand for it by Marylanders has not been seen. However,Christian responded that the support of Maryland is “overwhelming,” but the reason it is not more obvious is that due to the school board not listening, despite the public’s outcry. Pinsky believes the supporters are confusing the short-term benefits with the long- term benefits and not really thinking about the community.
Stephen Guthrie, superintendent of Carroll County Public Schools, is also in favor of this later school start, yet he did agree with some of Pinsky’s points. He stated that students would rather come back in August than get out of school in July. This can lead to less productivity from the students at the end of the school year.
Sean Johnson, assistant executive director of the Maryland State Education Association, is strongly for this initiative mainly because of how it will positively affect the children. He said a longer summer is tougher for at-risk or homeless children because they would lose access to free or reduced meals, shelter and support. He also claimed that “Maryland’s public schools are excelling,” so it is a good time to implement this plan. Michael Haynie,Senior Presidentat Parkway Hospitality Management, is also in favor of this initiative because the 180 days of school minimum would still be reached. In many districts that have been starting post-Labor Day, they have had no complaints.
Franchot concluded by saying the biggest support for this proposal comes from Baltimore City, which is significant. He thinks it is entirely attainable and in the best interest of the children and their families. It’s important for us, as college stu- dents in Maryland, to hear from experts about critical issues facing the state,and in this case,will directly affect Maryland public schools. While the majority of the state is for this initiative,the debate is not over.