by Lisa Tome
Although school is in session, those at the state comptroller's office still have summer on their minds.
In mid August, State Comptroller Peter Franchot kicked off the "Let Summer Be Summer" petition drive. The goal is to gather 10,000 signatures from people who want the school year in Maryland to be pushed back to start after Labor Day.
Christine Feldmann, Deputy Director for the Comptroller's Office of Communications, said the initiative is going well.
"It's going great. We are about halfway to our goal. We're already more than halfway," said Feldmann. She said it's hard to pin down the number of signatures that have been gathered. Some are electronic signatures, others are on hard copies of the petition which is scattered around the state.
Locally, a petition is available at Elkton Chamber and Alliance at the corner of North and Main streets, Elkton. The petitions are also widely available in Ocean City and in Deep Creek Lake. It will also be available at public events, fairs, and festivals statewide.
When the campaign kicked off, Comptroller Franchot said that schools starting before Labor Day impacts family vacations and small businesses in Maryland.
Earlier this year, in late May, a Governor's Task Force recommended that state public schools delay opening until after Labor Day. That proposal seeks to extend summer vacation by a week or more in many areas. The state task force recommended 11-4 to embrace a later start date for back to school across the state. In August 2013, Comptroller Franchot released an economic impact report completed by the Bureau of Revenue Estimates regarding a post Labor Day start for Maryland public schools. That report found that a delayed school start in Maryland would result in an additional $74.3 million in direct economic activity, including $3.7 million in new wages and an additional $7.7 million in state and local revenue.
Instead of reducing the 180-day school year, the Comptroller suggests that school systems could adjust their calendars throughout the academic year without losing time for instruction. This year, Cecil Public School students headed back to the classroom on August 22. Students in both Frederick and Prince George's County went back to school on August 19. No school systems in Maryland started classes after Labor Day.
Those who want to review or sign the petition can do so electronically. On the web go to marylandtaxes.com. The petition is there and requires only the name of the signer and where they live.
Feldmann said the plan is to take the petition to the legislature in January. No legislator has come forward to state they will introduce the "Let Summer Be Summer" plan as a bill as of yet, but that is expected to occur.
"We've had great support from the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland," said Feldmann. "We need people to make their voices heard and sign the petition."