MABE Supports Locally Designed Calendars and Opposes a Post-Labor Day School Year Start as a Statewide Mandate
One of MABE’s top priorities for the 2019 Legislative Session was support for continued governance autonomy for local boards of education to set education policy and school budgets which provide educational benefits for all students; and opposition to unfunded mandates. Specifically, MABE advocated for approval of enhanced local school calendar flexibility.
See below for much more information on the Governor’s Executive Orders, subsequent legislation, and the State Board of Education’s regulations.
2019 Saw Landmark Bill Passed to Ensure Local Board Flexibility on School Calendars
MABE greatly appreciates that Senators Paul Pinsky (Chair of the Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee) and Nancy King (Chair of the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee) have introduced Senate Bill 128 which includes the following, straightforward, provision: “NOTWITHSTANDING ANY OTHER PROVISION OF LAW … EACH COUNTY BOARD SHALL SET THE START DATE AND END DATE OF THE SCHOOL YEAR FOR THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN THE COUNTY EACH YEAR.”
Another important school calendar flexibility bill, sponsored by Senator Nancy King, is Senate Bill 131. This bill is narrower in focus, but would correct the confusion over a similar bill passed in 2018. Senate Bill 131 clearly states that: “A COUNTY BOARD MAY EXTEND THE LENGTH OF THE SCHOOL YEAR FOR ANY REASON FOR UP TO 5 SCHOOL DAYS BEYOND JUNE 15 WITHOUT APPROVAL FROM THE STATE BOARD OR ANY OTHER ENTITY.”
These bills represented one of MABE’s top legislative priorities for the 2019 session regarding local board governance authority. MABE supported passage of both bills. But to be clear, Senate Bill 128 passed, including an override of the Governor’s veto, and now guarantees that each local board may adopt its own annual school calendar, from start to finish.
MABE Testimony Supporting School Calendar Bills
Background and History of School Calendar Issues
2018 bill did not have the intended effect of providing local board calendar flexibility
in 2018, MABE strongly supported passage of both Senate Bill 729 and House Bill 679. This legislation authorizes a local board of education to extend the school year for up to five days and beyond June 15 without approval from the State Board of Education. The bills were passed as emergency legislation and took effect upon being signed by the Governor on April 10.
Section 7-103 of the Education Article was amended to include a new provision for local school systems to use to extend the length of their school year, including in the 2017-2018 school year.
MABE strongly supported passage of this bill. Unfortunately, MSDE and the State Board of Education interpreted the amended law as allowing the addition of days only in response to emergency closings and the failure to meet the 180-day minimum.
MSDE and State Board Use New Law to Deny Waivers
On April 24, 2018 the State Board voted to deny several school calendar waivers requested by local school systems to allow them to end school on June 15 (in accordance with their adopted school calendars and the Governor’s Executive Order). The State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Salmon requested the denials based on the passage of the 5-day extension bill referenced above.
“It is requested that the Maryland State Board of Education deny the request to waive two-days of the 180-day instructional requirement for Caroline, Howard, and Somerset County Public Schools for the 2017-2018
school year due to the new legislation enacted that allows a county board to extend the length of the school year up to five (5) school days beyond June 15 without approval from the State Board.”
When MABE learned that MSDE was recommending waiver denials based on the recently enacted legislation, we wrote to Board President Smarick. “In light of the pending waiver requests from several school systems, I am respectfully requesting that the State Board consider MABE’s interpretation of the recently enacted legislation regarding the school calendar, and that this legislation not be applied as a rationale for denying local board waiver requests (as recommended in the MSDE memos to the Board). The legislative intent of Senate Bill 729 was to enable boards to take locally determined actions, such as providing a full spring break, or closing for Jewish holidays, and to do so by adopting a school calendar that extends for up to 5 school days beyond June 15. There is no legislative intent that this discretion be contingent on weather or natural disaster related closings. Most importantly as it relates to the pending waiver requests, there is no legislative intent that this newly authorized local discretion be construed as a rationale for rejecting local waiver requests to permit a school year to end on June 15.”
The State Board Grants Pre-Labor Day Start-Date Waivers to Allegany and Garrett County Boards of Education
On January 24, 2017 the State Board of Education approved school calendar waivers from the Allegany and Garrett County Boards of Education. The waiver requests qualified under the Governor’s 2016 Executive Order establishing a statewide school year which must commence with a post-Labor Day start date and conclude with an end-date of no later than June 15. Waiver requests from Allegany and Garrett Counties
The State Board Creates the Innovative School Schedule Workgroup
In response to the second Executive Order on the Post-Labor Day/June 15 school year, the State Board of Education formed a workgroup to develop recommendations and report to the State Board on innovative school scheduling models that enhance student achievement. On October 26, 2016 the State Board requested MSDE to undertake a study to be used to inform State Board members on the use of innovative school scheduling models. On December 5, 2016 State Superintendent Salmon presented on the process MSDE and the Innovative School Schedule Workgroup will use to explore the use of innovative school scheduling models in low-performing or at-risk public schools. Workgroup recommendations are due to the State Board in June 2017.
MABE Responds to Governor’s Revised Labor Day Executive Order
Revised Post-Labor Day Executive Order (October 11, 2016)
On October 11, 2016, Governor Hogan issued an amended Executive Order to forestall the intention of the State Board of Education to consider and grant waivers from the post-Labor Day through June 15 school year based on a local board of education’s showing that commencing their academic calendar before Labor Day would provide educational benefit to students.
The new Executive Order repeals the previous waiver language and insists that the State Board follow formal regulatory procedures in adopting waiver criteria. In addition, the Order requires that local boards establish a “compelling justification” for any requested waiver by satisfying all elements stipulated in the Order. Waivers appear to be limited to individual schools with innovative programs justifying the waiver.
On October 5, 2016, MABE members from across the State adopted revisions to MABE’s Continuing Resolutions, which provide the foundation for the association’s legislative and policy positions in the coming year. The resolution on Local Board of Education Governance Authority was amended to emphasize that “MABE opposes any executive or legislative initiatives that have the effect of reducing or circumscribing local board authority … encourages local boards to work in conjunction with the State Board of Education … and advocates for and supports legislation to clarify that local board governance authority is not subject to executive orders by the Governor.”
Today, in the wake of an even more prescriptive Executive Order specifying the types of waivers the State Board of Education may consider, MABE reiterates the association’s recently adopted resolution in support of action in defense of the principle and operation of local governance of education policy matters.
Revised Post-Labor Day Executive Order (October 11, 2016)
The State Board of Education voted unanimously at its meeting on September 27, 2016 to direct staff to draft guidelines for waivers from the Post-Labor Day Executive Order
Following a lengthy discussion, the State Board determined that the executive order was clear both in terms of the impact on school calendars and the authority of the State Board to adopt waiver criteria.
The language of the adopted motion reads as follows:
“Direct Staff to draft guidance that the board can approve at its next meeting that makes clear to districts, charter schools, and the public that the board intends, beginning immediately, to approve expeditiously, requests for waivers from the calendar limits set by Executive Order 01.01.2016.19, provided that such requests are justified by reasonable explanations of the educational benefits to students that will be advanced by such waivers.” (emphasis added)
“And further direct staff to begin, during this interim, the process of developing suitable regulations to continue to carry out the board’s intent as stated in this motion.”
Maryland Attorney General’s Office Finds the Governor’s Executive Order Is Outside His Authority
Attorney General’s Advice Letter to Senator Paul Pinsky and Delegate Anne Kaiser (September 16, 2016)
“Nevertheless, I conclude from all of this that the Governor may not set educational policy or direct the administration of public schools through the mechanism of an executive order and that a reviewing court would likely find that the establishment of the school calendar is a matter of educational policy or public school administration. If so, it would fall within the State Board’s exclusive power to determine that policy. Although the Governor could influence that policy through his appointments to the State Board, he could not do so by executive order.”
Governor Hogan signs an Executive Order mandating a post-Labor Day start and June 15th end of the school year – starting in 2017.
The Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE), representing all twenty-four of the State’s local boards of education, supports the right of local boards of education to adopt school calendars, including when the school year begins. In response the Governor’s action, MABE issued the following statement.
On August 31, 2016 Governor Hogan signed an Executive Order mandating a post-Labor Day start for all of Maryland’s public schools beginning in 2017. The Order further mandates that the school year end by June 15th. MABE strongly opposes this initiative as contrary to the principle of local governance and the traditional role of boards of education and their communities in setting school calendars. The strict limitation of ending school on June 15th will require not only new school calendars but new teacher and employee contracts. The time and money spent on these negotiations would be better spent on educating our 870,000 public school students.
Post-Labor Day legislation was first considered and rejected in 2015 and 2016 thanks to legislators supporting locally developed and adopted school calendars. “MABE and local board members from across the state have historically joined forces in Annapolis to oppose a statewide mandate to start school after Labor Day. We have emphasized that first and foremost, school calendars support classroom instruction and student learning, and reflect the input of local communities,” says Warner Sumpter, President of the Maryland Association for Boards of Education (MABE), and President of the Board of Education of Somerset County.
MABE Secretary and Legislative Chair Joy Schaefer, a board member in Frederick County, is concerned about the effect the new mandate will have on the ability of local boards to make responsive community-based decisions. “School boards each have a comprehensive and inclusive process in place to develop their school calendars. For example, in our county, not only do teachers and staff weigh in, but also we provide opportunities for input from our various stakeholders – families, the business community, and the community at large. Our calendar development exemplifies local control and governance at its best and most effective.”
MABE anticipates a strong response from local boards, educators, parents and many others concerned with the impact of this Executive Order on school calendars and contracts.
MABE strongly opposed legislation in 2015 (Senate Bill 455/House Bill 389) and 2016 (Senate Bill 767/House Bill 1349) which would have prohibited public schools from opening before the day after Labor Day (MABE testimony). In 2015, this legislation would have prevented any school from opening before September 8th.
MABE supports preserving and protecting the rights of local communities and their respective boards of education to adopt school calendars; school calendars that reflect not only state testing schedules and mandated holidays, but also other important local considerations. Local boards serve a broad constituency of professional educators, parents, students, businesses and other community groups. Local boards believe that imposing a statewide start date for the school year would impose unwarranted restrictions on the prerogative of local communities to consider and decide on their local school system calendar.
A 2011 report by the Education Commission of the States (ECS) shows 39 states in which school calendars are set by local school districts, with laws in other states imposing a variety of restrictions on start-dates, and only 3 states specifically mandating a post-Labor Day start.
A Task Force to Study a Post-Labor Day Start Date for Maryland Public Schools was created by Legislation enacted in 2013 (Senate Bill 963). The Task Force was charged with studying the impact of moving the start date of the public school year in the State to after Labor Day on the following areas: (1) the education system, including the academic calendar, planning, administration, and facilities use; (2) the economy; and (3) summer tourism. On June 25, 2014 the Task Force issued its final report, making the singular recommendation “to recommend to the Governor, a post-Labor Day start date for Maryland Public Schools.”
On July 8, 2014, MABE joined the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland (PSSAM) and Maryland State Education Association (MSEA) in a letter voicing strong opposition to the Task Force recommendation – calling on the Governor and legislative leaders to recognize that “school-related decisions, should be determined locally and based on meeting the academic needs of our students, providing professional development for our faculties, and honoring the wishes or our communities.” To learn more, read our Joint Letter, the Task Force Final Report, or visit the MSDE web page for the Task Force.
For more information, contact MABE’s Director of Governmental Relations, John R. Woolums, Esq., at email@example.com or 410-841-5414.