Hogan's school schedule move latest in a campaign to divide state and build a base

Gov. Larry Hogan's apparently crowd-pleasing decree to start schools after Labor Day is part of a parlay of moves to build a base for his reelection bid at the cost of the state's social cohesiveness

/By Woody Woodruff-PM BlogSpace/ When the Hogan administration’s smiling front man, “holding hands with the state tax collector” as Senate Prez Mike Miller archly observed, decreed that all schools would start after Labor Day, he put the squeeze on the school calendar in a way that seemed suspicious to many.

The ostensible reasons for the move were to give families a longer summer vacation (and, incidentally, lengthen the visitor bonanza for Ocean City, where Hogan not coincidentally made the announcement surrounded by fawning local officials.

The “tax collector” also by his side was Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat who has been Hogan’s enabler on the three-member spending board that OKs state projects and the money to support them. Franchot, who has for years proposed the Labor Day opening gambit, has for years also wanted to be governor. With his latest round of pandering he has to be seen as stepped to the head of the line to succeed Boyd Rutherford as Hogan’s ticket-mate for a second term in 2018, an ostensibly bipartisan pairing.

Just a day or so after this blog reposted Barry Rascovar’s acid view on the Trump-like behavior of the ostensible anti-Trump Hogan, a cascade of behaviors show Hogan ginning up his middle-class white base in more traditional (and subtle) ways, as well.

Certainly the Labor Day school bomb has Trump-like overtones, more or less “We’re going to protect the middle-class summer vacation by building a wall between June 15 and Labor Day. And we’re going to make our children and teachers pay for it!”

More to the point, middle-class white kids, already insulated by the state’s persistent residential segregation from the rougher edges of school life, will have a longer vacation while the state’s minority students, already barricaded by that same residential segregation into more poorly supported schools and lacking summer enrichment – enjoyed by better-off families’ kids – will lose in summer some of what they have so painfully learned in the regular school year.

The “python-like squeeze” on the calendar will force individual districts to choose what existing days must be trimmed to fit 180 days or more within Hogan’s shiny new wall. Among them are spring break, regular school holidays and – of course – teacher in-service days. Though union contracts lock these days in, the temptation for hard-pressed school administrators will be to stick it to the unions and the teachers they represent, which today’s GOP will do whenever it can.

As the Sun’s roundup put it, “The new start and stop dates left school officials elsewhere in Maryland pondering how to accommodate religious holidays and teacher development days while properly preparing students for standardized tests and figuring out how to help impoverished communities that depend on schools to feed children.” [emphasis added]

The winners, riding on their existing access to enrichment year-round, will be middle-class families, mostly white. The losers – the rest of us.

But there’s more: Hogan has (by his silence) been cheering on the bullying of Prince George’s County over its new hospital by a right-wing member of the state’s Health Care Commission who inexplicably was given sole authority over evaluating the new hospital and forced a revision of the plans that make it harder for the new hospital to become the regional center that the county and the University of Maryland Medical System – which would run the new hospital – had envisioned. Anytime the GOP can disparage a black-majority county and political culture, opportunity grasped.

And Hogan’s move to ease the regulations on new septic tank construction, mostly in rural areas, is a gesture to the non-urban GOP base with an influential core of single-family developers and builders that he is consolidating outside the Democratic power centers of Baltimore City and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. That the Bay and its tributaries will be hugely imperiled by this move is not Hogan’s concern, any more than the similar effect of poultry farm runoff on the Eastern Shore, another base he is consolidating through eased regulations. All these moves will make it easier for bosses to keep putting the screws to their workers.

There is a good deal of method in this strategy – splitting off the state’s middle class, largely white, from its productive, populous and diverse urban centers in order to build an electoral base for his bid for a second term. The more whiteness becomes the distinguishing characteristic of Hogan’s manufactured class divide, the more attractive his GOP bombast will become to an anxious white working class – another Trumpian tactic by Mr. “I’m-Not-Trump.”

Although some of these moves are showy, like the mini-circus in Ocean City for his schools schedule announcement, much of this is accomplished through the state agencies that Hogan has peopled with retreads from the Ehrlich administration, of which he was a chief steward. Hogan has, so far, managed to retain remarkable popularity in an allegedly blue state whose Democrats are feeling the heat (and the costs of a lackluster campaign against Hogan the first time). His worst effects are stealthily under the radar, most of the time.