After years of pushing the start of school earlier and earlier, the time has come to once again make Labor Day the end of summer vacation.
Not only have the opportunities for Maryland families to enjoy quality time together been cut short, but the small businesses across the state that rely on the tourism industry are losing out on critical economic activity. Let’s draw a line in the sand and make sure that summer means summer in Maryland.
Over the years, tourism has become the fourth largest industry in the state, employing more than 340,000 Marylanders and welcoming more than 32 million domestic travelers in 2010. Starting school after Labor Day would help increase the tourist flow and allow businesses to hold onto their seasonal help at the height of the summer rush. During these tough economic times, we need to be doing all that we can to support the tourism sector and find ways to foster even more growth.
Several of our sister states have adopted this policy, including neighboring Virginia. They have all seen benefits to their economies. In fact, since the post-Labor Day start was implemented in Michigan, the state has experienced a 25 percent boost in tourism-related economic activity. Think what those extra days could mean to the restaurants in Bethesda and National Harbor, the arts and entertainment businesses in Silver Spring, amusement destinations in Prince George’s County and all the service-related businesses throughout this region.
Statewide, Maryland has numerous nationally known tourist destinations such as Ocean City, Deep Creek Lake and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor that would see increased economic activity. Giving families those extra summer days to get away, spend time together and make lifelong memories at these places is something we need to do.
We hear from those who oppose any changes to the status quo about how if this was implemented, the school year would go until the end of June. I can reassure people this would not be the case. We can, and must, accomplish this goal by scaling back spring and winter breaks that have grown in recent years, as well as by eliminating some of the random and unexpected days off that currently exist.
Maryland’s school system has been rated the top in the nation for several years now and our teachers, administrators and support staff are the most talented in the country. I am confident they can adjust the school year in order to provide for a start after Labor Day. And the best part is that doing this doesn’t cost anything — it will actually generate millions in additional revenue for our state and local governments.
Over the coming months, I hope to start a statewide discussion and review the benefits of starting school after Labor Day with all the stakeholders. I also plan to support legislation in the 2013 Maryland General Assembly that would make this a statewide policy.
I know it would be a win for students who rely on summer jobs to earn money for themselves and their families. I know it’s a win for small businesses that won’t have to lose experienced staff in mid-August, right at the peak of the tourism season.
And I know it’s a win for Maryland families who will get the chance to share special moments, create more memories and enjoy more quality time together.
Peter Franchot is comptroller of Maryland.