School's out for wrong reason Election Day: Foolish state law closing schools deprives students of a prime education in democracy.

September 14, 1998

THE PRICE we pay for democracy need not include harming our children's education, but does. Maryland law provides that all schools must close for primary and general elections, except in six rural counties, because some school buildings serve as polling places.

As a result, school is out tomorrow and on Nov. 3.

Sure, the days are added on at the end or -- this year -- the beginning so that the mandatory 180-day school year is fulfilled. But missing two Tuesdays hurts the rhythm of education.

For too many families, the Mondays are thrown in as well. And this year that need to add two days helps account for the painfully early August opening of schools in Baltimore City and many subdivisions. That, in turn, helps explain the abysmally low turnout on opening day in Baltimore City.

Other school districts around the country demonstrate repeatedly that school can be conducted successfully while one room is dedicated to the election.

The advantage is that the rhythm of learning is maintained. Children of working parents are not set loose with little or no supervision.

Best of all, children who have been taught about democracy and voting see in action.

The General Assembly ought to amend this law. It should allow schools to operate in major jurisdictions in the next general election on a trial basis.

If those experiments show in 2000 that elections and education can coincide in the same buildings, the law ought to be changed for good.

Pub Date: 9/14/98

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