Are task forces pointless? I’m starting to think so. I wish someone would do analysis on how many task forces have been established by our General Assembly and if their recommendations have been implemented into state law. Are they just a way to appease stakeholders, by allowing them to work on a policy issue for months, while legislators just hope the issue dies and go away? Take, for example, a 2014 task force which voted IN FAVOR of starting each school year after Labor Day. Several attempts to push through a bill for post Labor Day start have failed since, even though the new economic benefits are clear for Delaware’s #3 Tourism industry.
In my last blog, I mention an issue regarding labor at our retail produce stand. All of our seasonal help typically returns to school about two weeks before the Labor Day holiday. This includes adults and teenagers. Labor Day is our biggest holiday and August beach traffic has increased the past couple years. Retaining even just a few seasonal employees for an additional week or two would help us tremendously as our family has pick to up the slack over the remaining months of September and October. I assume many other produce operations, especially those with fall agritourism events, encounter the same labor issue in addition to seasonal beach businesses.
Over a month ago, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan took the matter into his own hands and signed an executive order mandating an after Labor Day school start and an end date by June 15 next school year (2017-2018). He cited family, economic, environmental, health benefits from a later start:
- 75% of Marylander’s support a later start
- August is the 2nd hottest month in Maryland
- Baltimore County city has 37 schools with no air conditioning and must close when temperature is over 90 degrees
- Other schools with air conditioning can reduce energy bill costs in hottest summer months
- August is the most popular month for family vacations
- Many students and teachers work at the beach
- 2013 economic study showed $74 million dollar increase in new economic activity for the tourism industry with later start date
- Maryland Farm Bureau vocally supported Governor Hogan’s efforts for 2 reasons: seasonal summer labor and MD State Fair youth participation.
- Peter Franchot, Maryland’s Comptroller started a campaign called, “Let Summer Be Summer”
I love Gov. Hogan’s recent remarks about his decision to move forward on this issue. He called out the media, the commission that studied it, and MD legislators for not getting it done. Impressive. You have to watch this video.
Without a Republican Governor, I’m pretty certain Delaware won’t mandate this through an executive order any time soon. So, we’ll keep twiddling our thumbs and wait for legislators to do the right thing for 2 of our biggest industries in Delaware: tourism and agriculture. You can access the final report from the task force below and I’ll point out the letters at the end from constituents as well as the note from the Indian River Superintendent and Board, who decided to respect their business partners and community by starting after Labor Day without being mandated. The task force had legislator, school district, tourism and small business representation; however, no one from the ag industry or our state farm bureau was involved.