(Posted 7 Apr 2006)
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Date: Apr 7, 2006 5:38 AM
Subject: Elected School Board Update - Good News and Bad
The good news is that yesterday (Thursday) the Prince George's County Senate delegation approved S.B. 1094 to return the county school board to 9 members, each elected from a local single-member district. The bad news is that the delegation included a "poison pill" amendment to retain three members of the current appointed board for another 4 years. The bill will now go to the Senate floor, where courtesy assures its passage, and then to a conference with the House, where our delegation generally opposes the amendment.
The entire amendment is a cynical attempt to enshrine the undemocratic lame duck patronage appointments of the former governor and county executive for a total of 8 years. It also waters down the voting strength of the elected members; They each effectively would have only 3/4 of a vote (9 of 12, excluding the student member) compared to a purely elected board.
The current school board chair and vice chair would automatically be members of the new board, effectively being appointed by the legislature, which may violate the separation of powers. The worst part of the amendment is the third appointed member. Senate delegation chair Gloria Lawlah [Sen.Lawlah] (D-Dist. 26), who sponsored the amendment at the urging of Senate President "Mike" Miller [Sen.Miller] (D-Dist. 27), explained that the third member to continue on the board would be selected from and by the remaining 7 appointed members of the current board! Seven people with a real conflict of interest would be the only county voters permitted to vote for a member of the school board, who would have to be one of them. What nonsense!
Senator Lawlah excused keeping the appointed board members in office by claiming a need for continuity on the board during the initial years of a new superintendent. That, of course, is disingenuous to an extreme. The legislators did not worry about continuity when they took away our voting rights four years ago and replaced the entire former elected board with an appointed one, supposedly with a new "Chief Executive Officer" (although the appointed board unwisely continued former Superintendent Iris Metts as its initial CEO). Even if continuity were desirable, it should not take four years for the new superintendent and new board members to get to know one another and forge good working relationships.
We support the House delegation and hope it has sufficient strength to hold off the Senate amendment while still achieving our long-term goal of 9 single-member districts. If the House and Senate instead reach some sort of compromise, we would have to see what it looks like before making any decision regarding its acceptability.
Please call and email your delegate(s) and senator to urge their support for nine single-member districts without the holdover appointed members. Please do this right now, while you still are at your computer. The session ends Monday night, so time is of the essence.