Maryland Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) blasted Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Wednesday for ordering schools to start after Labor Day, describing his recent executive order as an “abuse of executive authority.”
“I was very surprised to see it happen,” Kopp said. “We have a long history of local governance of our schools.”
Kopp made the remarks at the beginning of the semi-monthly meeting of the Board of Public Works, a three-member panel that reviews major state expenditures and includes Kopp, Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot (D).
Kopp said she did not initially plan to mention Hogan’s action, which has caused a major firestorm, but felt compelled to address it after Franchot, a strong advocate for the later school start, praised Hogan from the dais for signing the order last week.
Kopp said she looks forward to an opinion expected this week from the state attorney general’s office on whether Hogan’s actions were legal. “I’m sorry it was done this way,” she said.
Hogan told Kopp she was in the minority.
“About 10 percent of the people of Maryland agree with you,” he said, referring to an a unscientific survey on WBAL-TV’s website that asked whether school should start after Labor Day. As of Wednesday night, more than 9,000 people had responded, and 92 percent of them said yes.
A similarly unscientific poll on www.washingtonpost.com, which was posted days later and has drawn fewer responses so far, showed 54 percent of people opposing a post-Labor Day start, and 46 percent supporting it.
A scientifically valid Goucher poll from 2015, when the legislature was considering a bill to mandate starting school after Labor Day, found that about 72 percent of residents favored the idea.
“We’ll see how it plays out,” Kopp told Hogan at the meeting.
“The previous governor was also in favor of this,” Hogan retorted.
“But he did not use his authority to do it,” Kopp interjected.
“I’m talking now,” the governor said, patting Kopp on the arm and explaining that the legislature appointed a task force that included teachers and administrators to study a later school start.
He said the legislature failed to act because of pressure from the teachers’ union. Currently, all but one school district in Maryland begins classes before Labor Day.
“We just did the people’s business,” Hogan added. “We have every right to do so. . . . We’re just providing a start date and an end date, and the school systems all get to make up their own calendars.”
The governor dismissed some of the arguments being made against a later start date, saying it was “nonsense” that schools will have to do away with Christmas and spring breaks as some lawmakers and school officials who oppose the order have argued.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “Some of these school systems have 15 mandated days off by the teachers’ union to do various things.”
“I appreciate your opinion,” Hogan told Kopp. “It just happens to be wrong.”
After the two went back and forth for about three minutes, Franchot said: “Gosh, I’m sorry I brought the subject up.” The room, filled with state employees, burst into laughter.
“You just saw democracy in action,” Franchot said.
“And if the legislature wants to go against 90 percent of the people, they have every right to do so,” Hogan added. “I think it would be a mistake.”