Election Day for teacher planning State legislation: Bill would have educators work Election Day, for in-service planning.

March 18, 1997

ELECTION DAY IS A WORK DAY for most folks. Even the bars stay open during polling hours nowadays.

A notable exception to the rule: The public schools, whose premises are often used as a voting station. So, in most Maryland counties, the primary and general elections are invariably cause for another day off in the school calendar, even if not all schools are used as polling places.

Legislation now before the General Assembly would change that statewide practice -- at least for teachers.

Del. Joseph R. Getty, a Carroll County Republican, wants the two election days each year to serve as work days for planning by teachers. This would help to limit the length of the school-year calendar and more fully utilize classroom facilities, while meeting rising teacher demands for more days minus classroom demands so they can plan, Mr. Getty says.

And it addresses the complaints of parents who object to extra days off for children, or for days in which the students start late or get out early to provide teacher planning time. Day-care schedules and transportation arrangements are often thrown into chaos by such calendar breaks. More efficient use of the calendar would reduce the pressure to extend the school year late into June to accommodate the state's 180-day rule, also a concern of school staffers.

Teachers don't support Mr. Getty's bill, nor do most school boards and administrations. They want to schedule planning days for appropriate times, such as the end of term for writing report cards and holding parent-teacher conferences. Educators should make those decisions, not legislators, they argue. (Some teachers also see a political motive in Mr. Getty's proposal -- lessening their campaigning on Election Day.)

Politics does not seem to be the motivation here; more efficient use of the school calendar is. Frederick County, for example, requires teachers and staff to work election days (when there are no classes) without serious problems.

While educators prefer to have ultimate flexibility, they could reasonably adapt to the situation. The broader needs of the school community support this wise use of facilities and teacher time, while restraining the move to schedule more days off for pupils.

Pub Date: 3/18/97

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