May 25

LOCAL SCHOOL districts in Maryland weigh many factors in determining when to start their school years. What’s the window for state, local and advanced placement testing? When is the best time to conduct professional staff development? Essentially, school officials want to create an optimal learning environment. One thing they don’t — and shouldn’t have to — consider is maximizing tax revenue from Ocean City.

A task force convened by the Maryland General Assembly has recommended that the state’s public schools not be allowed to open until after Labor Day. The driving motivation behind the change, which would require legislation or an executive order, is to boost the state’s tourism industry. Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), a strong supporter of extending summer vacation into September, said the change could result in more than $7.7 million in additional tax revenue and $74.3 million in new economic activity. His main concern, Mr. Franchot told The Post’s Donna St. George, is “the quality of interaction between family and their kids, which is jeopardized by this creep of starting school earlier and earlier. If we keep going in that direction, it will be July when we start school.”

Actually, that doesn’t strike us as necessarily a bad idea, considering the educational advantages to be gained from increased instruction time and the success some school districts have had with year-round schooling, particularly in helping at-risk students. But we wouldn’t impose that view, either. The school calendar should be shaped by educators in conjunction with their communities rather than politicians in Annapolis with nostalgic notions of summer. It is telling that all the local superintendents and the state teachers association, in rare unanimity, oppose taking this issue out of the hands of the districts. “Requiring all local educational agencies to conform to the same schedule would not be conducive to the diverse needs of the twenty-four (24) districts in the state of Maryland,” Prince George’s school chief Kevin M. Maxwell wrote to the head of the state task force.

Maryland, which likes to trumpet its success in student achievement, would be taking a step back if it allowed business interests, not children’s needs, to dictate school decisions. We urge Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to make short shrift of this ill-advised proposal.