Teacher Unions, Annapolis Legislators Send Students Back to Sweltering Classrooms Next Year
The Baltimore Sun reported last week that city teachers are raising money and collecting donated fans to cool unairconditioned classrooms where temperatures sometimes exceed 100-degrees. Yet Baltimore school administrators are also worried that plugging too many fans will strain aging electrical systems past their breaking point.[i]
Common sense suggests the impracticality of an August school start date in Maryland, given the number of state school classrooms that still lack air conditioning.
Governor Hogan signed an Executive Order in August 2016, requiring Maryland’s public schools to start classes after Labor Day, beginning the next school year. In making his announcement he was joined by Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot, education advocates and other longtime supporters of a post-Labor Day school start.
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Citing the benefits of a post-Labor Day school start for families, students, teachers, and the economy, the governor made the announcement on the Ocean City Boardwalk, saying:
“Starting Maryland public schools after Labor Day is not just a family issue – it’s an economic and public safety issue that draws clear, strong, bipartisan support among an overwhelming majority of Marylanders….Comptroller Franchot and I believe, and the people of Maryland strongly agree, that this Executive Order puts the best interests of Marylanders first, especially the well-being of our students. This action is long overdue, and it is simply the right thing to do.”
The response from the teachers’ union and their political allies was fierce. As the Washington Post reported at the time: “Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan triggered one of the biggest firestorms of his tenure last week when he ordered schools to start classes after Labor Day beginning next year.”
A spokesman for the Maryland State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union claimed that “Cutting back the school year and extending summer is not a solution to any education problem—it’s just another Gov. Hogan school cut.”
Hopefully, this MSEA’s spokesman will never, ever be allowed anywhere near a Maryland mathematics classroom. The number of required teaching days, 180, along with the minimum of school hours remained unchanged by the Governor’s order.
Despite the union opposition, a Gonzales Maryland Poll earlier this year found that 56 percent of Marylanders said schools should be closed through Labor Day.[ii]
Unfortunately, when presented with a choice between public opinion and satisfying the teachers union, this year the Democratic General Assembly chose the union. After waiting two full years to act until after the 2018 elections, they voted to reverse the Governor’s executive order. While school schedules for the current year were already in place, next year officials in many counties are likely to return their schools to an August, pre-Labor Day start date.
The legislature’s action required overriding the Governor’s veto. Governor Hogan said: “Members of the Maryland Senate should heed the calls of the overwhelming majority of Marylanders — reject this legislation and repudiate this thinly veiled attempt to manipulate the will of our citizens.” [iii] The governor also noted that the post-Labor Day start improves health and safety for students, teachers, and education employees who are in some cases required to report – in the second hottest month of the calendar year – to schools that lack air conditioning. [iv]
So, here is a modest prediction, one year from now Marylanders will once again read news stories about students’ pre-Labor Day return to swelteringly hot classrooms.