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Are business interests dictating school calendars?

Prior to the summer of 2016, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ordered public schools to end by June 15 and wait to resume classes until after Labor Day. The controversial decision was seen as a boon to business and tourism throughout the state during the summer months.

Hogan’s executive order did have a caveat. Charter, low performing and “at risk” schools received a waiver to continue classes after June 15. While specific terms were used, definitions were lacking at best.

Many members of the State Board of Education oppose the governor’s decree, along with teachers’ unions, school district officials and even some state lawmakers. They are already struggling to revise calendars to fit the new time frame. The unified front also cites their ongoing battle over the “summer slide” where students may forget academic skills following a long break.

Maryland is taking a page out of Virginia’s business and tourism playbook. The neighboring state also holds off opening schools until after Labor Day. Known as “King’s Dominion Law,” the mandate shares its name with an amusement park popular with tourists.

Suggested by the Doswell-based attraction that traditionally opens well into the school year and closes in the late fall, a law was passed in 1986 that prohibits schools from opening before Labor Day without a waiver.

Opponents see it as putting business interests that are good for the state’s economy over the education of children. However, the Virginia Hospitality and Travel Association claim that hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, up to $400 million on Labor Day weekend alone. The association cites a study they commissioned that shows no relationship between post-Labor Day school openings and test scores.

The time-consuming tussle between powerful entities in two states that share a border continues while children affected by these high-level decisions focus on enjoying their time off.

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