A majority of Marylanders support Gov. Larry Hogan’s executive order mandating a post-Labor Day start for public schools, according to a new statewide poll, but state residents are divided over the gas-extraction method known as fracking.
Results from the Goucher College survey, released Monday, show that 68 percent of Marylanders back Hogan’s move requiring public schools to start after the September holiday and end by June 15, even though 54 percent said executive orders should be used “rarely or never.”
The poll did not ask whether residents would support the change even if it means school systems had to cut into spring break or other days off, which some critics say is likely.
Among the 76 percent of respondents who said they have heard about fracking, 43 percent said they would support a statewide ban, while 32 percent said they would oppose it. Those who had heard nothing about the practice were not asked for their positions.
The poll came as the state’s Environment Department is trying to meet a legislative deadline next month for proposing fracking regulations, and it also comes weeks after Hogan (R) side-stepped the Democratic-controlled General Assembly and school officials by issuing his start-date order.
A moratorium on fracking is set to expire in October 2017. The drilling method, technically known as hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep into the ground to break up rock and release natural gas.
Supporters say fracking could provide economic benefits for job-hungry Western Maryland and new revenue for the state, but opponents have raised concerns about groundwater contamination, air pollution and earthquakes.
Hogan has been a strong supporter of fracking, saying the extraction method should be allowed with safeguards. But several lawmakers have said they will push for a permanent ban.
The governor’s executive order for schools allows jurisdictions to apply for exemptions to the start- and end-date requirements. Similar plans have been proposed in the legislature for the past several years, but the bills have died in committee.
School officials and teachers unions say the order infringes on local control and could hurt students who struggle academically, especially poorer children who lack access to high-quality summer camps and programs. Some Democratic lawmakers have questioned Hogan’s authority to implement such a measure without the legislature.
A lawyer from the office of Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) said this month that the executive order may not hold up if it is challenged in court and that state lawmakers could override it with legislation.
The Goucher poll also showed that Hogan’s popularity in the state remains high, with 70 percent of respondents saying that they approve of the job he is doing as governor.
Sixty-five percent said the state is heading in the right direction.
Education ranked as a top concern for Marylanders, with 22 percent saying it was the most important issue, compared with 13 percent for economic growth and development, and 10 percent for unemployment.
The survey of 668 Maryland residents was conducted from Sept. 17 through Sept. 20. It included a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.