Daily "Recent Prince George's County News" updates were suspended in early March 2016. They were compiled primarily from retweets of news headlines. Those retweets continue, but in unformatted and unarchived form at PG-Politics-Briefs. To follow such headlines on a current basis, follow @pgpolitics on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

PG legislators' positions on Rushern Baker's school coup d'etat (reposted from 31 Mar 2013)

Note that this does not reflect the final votes on HB 1107.

Notes: Dates shown are for the online version of news reports and may differ from the dates a story appeared in print.  * indicates legislators who voted for Baker's 2002 school interference law.  That change did not improve educational results, but did result in the Baker-created appointed school board appoint, defending, and paying off a superintendent later convicted of committing felonies on the job.  Potential employment-related conflicts of interest highlighted in Red.

Others (opponents and questioners)


Del. Benjamin Barnes (D-21). Gazette, 23 Mar 2013 
Delegation Vice Chair Del. Benjamin S. Barnes (D-Dist.21) of College Park pointed out that the school board has gone though seven superintendents in 14 years and questioned whether the board was doing enough to address turnover.
Sen. Joanne Benson (D-24).  Post, 16 Mar 2013
State Sen. Joanne Benson (D-Prince George’s), a former school administrator and the delegation’s liaison for education, described Baker’s plan as “a good fit,” one that will increase accountability.

“I think that a change is needed,” she said. “We also need a facelift for the reputation of our school system. . . . I don’t have a problem with [the superintendent] becoming a cabinet-level position.”
Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-25). Gazette, 23 Mar 2013 
Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (D-Dist.25) of Mitchellville questioned why these issues had to be settled with legislation instead of through some other agreement or study.
"I dislike making a change just to make a change," she said. 
Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-25).  Post, 23 Mar 2013
Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (D-Prince George’s) argued that Baker is “making a change just for the sake of making a change,” and she suggested that an outside expert be brought in to assess the system.

“Why don’t we give this issue the level of importance it deserves and give it a study like we give other important issues,” she said.
Del. Aisha Braveboy (D-25). CNS, 28 Mar 2013
Delegate Aisha Braveboy, D-Prince George’s, said there have been other executive takeovers of school systems across the country, but she is not convinced they have been as effective as they initially sought out to be.

“I think it’s difficult for us to say that this change (in structure) would yield better results given that the proposal hasn’t proven to be successful in other areas,” Braveboy said.

Both Turner and Braveboy agreed they wanted changes made to help improve Maryland’s second largest school system.
Sen. Ulysses Currie * (D-25).  Post, 17 Mar 2013
State Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s) said he plans to support Baker’s proposed state legislation, which likely will be added as amendments to a bill that Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George’s) proposed months ago to form a task force to review the operations of the school board.

“I think he is going in the right direction,” Currie said, describing the school system as the “weak link” in the county’s ability to move forward. Baker has long said the schools — which rank toward the bottom of Maryland’s school systems in terms of achievement — are a hurdle to economic growth.
Del. Dereck E. Davis * (D-25).  CNS, 28 Mar 2013
Others in the Prince George’s delegation, including Delegate Dereck Davis, believe the changes in power make sense conceptually.

“If the executive is willing to take this on and wants to be held accountable for it, I’m supportive of the idea,” said Davis, adding that the county has been consistently ranked at the bottom of the state in terms of student achievement during the nearly 19 years he has been in office.

Davis said he has talked to many of his colleagues on the House side, and that a majority of them are in favor of taking some type of action in the near future.

“It may not be precisely what the county executive introduces, but overall they are not satisfied with what’s currently going on.” Davis said. “They’re definitely supportive of seeing something happen that would alter the course that we have been on.”
Del. Dereck E. Davis * (D-25).  Post, 30 Mar 2013
Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s), who has served in the General Assembly for nearly 20 years, said he is constantly bombarded by constituent complaints about the school system’s slow progress.

“There have been modest gains . . . but we had nowhere to go but up,” Davis said. “Can I guarantee that this will improve schools? I can’t make that guarantee. But we need to plot a different course. . . . If [Baker is] willing to take it on, I’m willing to back it.”

After a bitter battle took place in 2002 to get rid of the elected board of education and replace it with an appointed board — a move that was reversed in 2006 — Baker’s new schools plan has run into fresh resistance in the General Assembly, where several lawmakers are concerned that the county executive would have more power than any other in the state.
Del. Anne Healey * (D-22). Post, 23 Mar 2013
“I am not happy that this is here at this time with so little preparation,” said Del. Anne Healey (D-Prince George’s) .

“We are going to deal with it, go through it line by line, piece by piece and figure out if anything in here will advance our school system,” she said.
Del. Jolene Ivey (D-47). Post, 17 Mar 2013
Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s), the chairman of the county’s House delegation, applauded Baker for addressing what she called the “final and most important piece in our county’s renaissance.”

Ivey said she has attended numerous public forums in the county where residents have criticized Baker for the school system’s shortcomings.

“People think the county executive is running the schools, but all he can do is send money,” Ivey said. “If he is going to be judged on our schools, he needs to do more.”
Del. Jolene Ivey (D-47).  Post, 20 Mar 2013
“I truly think we’re asking too much of our school board,” said Del. Jolene Ivey (D), chairman of the Prince George’s delegation in the House, who supports Baker’s proposal.

“We’re paying these people $18,000 a year. Most of them have to have an additional job,” Ivey said. “You’re asking people to have 1½ jobs, manage a $1.7 billion budget, and focus on parental engagement and academic policy. Now come on — how much can you expect people to do?”
Del. Jolene Ivey (D-47).  Post, 20 Mar 2013
State Del. Jolene Ivey, head of the Prince George’s delegation and a supporter of Baker’s plan, said when Baker and other elected officials meet with residents around the county education consistently tops the list what residents want to discuss. “That’s what we hear,” she said. “What they want to talk about usually are schools. The reality is that [Baker] is doing all he can do with the current set up. The question is what can we do differently.”
Del. Jolene Ivey (D-47).  Gazette, 21 Mar 2013
Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly, chairwoman of the county’s House delegation, believes the change could be positive for Baker. Prince George’s students’ test scores have ranked near or at the bottom on the state standardized tests for years, and although the school board oversees the education system, voters tend to hold Baker and county leaders responsible for the state of local schools, Ivey said. Ivey added that she did not think Baker’s proposal comes with any future political agenda.

“Sure, anything good he’s able to accomplish benefits him in the future politically, but he’s got three kids who graduated from Prince George’s schools and he’s committed to making them better,” Ivey said. “There’s always that risk of it not working out, but if you take the safe route, what have you accomplished? That’s how he’s been in his whole political career. He’s been willing to do something unpopular to get something accomplished.”
Sen. Thomas V. 'Mike' Miller, Jr. * (D-27). Post, 29 Mar 2013 
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D-Calvert), whose district includes a chunk of southern Prince George’s, sat near committee members as they heard two hours of testimony.

Miller said when the hearing broke up that he thinks that the system has improved but that progress is too slow and the county cannot afford to wait much longer.

“We turn over huge sums of money to the school board,” he said. “We need to see results.”

Miller, who will have extensive influence over the course of the debate, predicted there would be a compromise. “The county executive will want more than we are going to give him,” he said. “The other side doesn’t want to see any change. We are going to find a way to fashion a compromise.”
 Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-23).  Post, 16 Mar 2013
State Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D), chairman of the county’s Senate delegation, said he wonders whether restructuring would yield academic improvements.
Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-23).  Post, 22 Mar 2013
Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George’s) said he told Baker that the General Assembly would not approve his proposal. “It needs to be retooled to have a chance,” Peters said. Throughout the week, Baker’s aides, working with Senate staffers, redrafted the legislation, which is slated to be introduced Monday, according to lawmakers.
Sen. Paul Pinsky * (D-22).  Post, 20 Mar 2013
Sen. Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s) said the issue was reaching a climax now partly because of concerns that the board isn’t up to the task of making the best choice for superintendent. The board recently narrowed the search to three finalists, but Baker’s bombshell could mean the hunt is reopened.

“There’s some question of confidence in the Board of Education to make a good choice,” Pinsky said. Noting that only a couple of members work professionally in education, he said, “Few have ongoing experience sitting around the table with other superintendents, either in the county or the state.”
Sen. Paul Pinsky * (D-22).  Post, 22 Mar 2013
Sen. Paul G. Pinsky (D-Prince George’s), an ally of Baker’s who was a key architect of the takeover plan, acknowledged that “some people will be concerned about a power grab.”

“But I don’t hear a lot of people coming to the defense of the Board of Education,” he said. “Most people want good schools, and they don’t care how we get there.”
Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-47).  Gazette, 21 Mar 2013
State Sen. Victor Ramirez (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly said he doubted any one single issue would derail Baker’s re-election bid as long as voters see he is trying to improve the county.

“When you’re trying to do the right thing, I don’t think it can be seen as political suicide,” Ramirez said. “He’s trying to be a leader, and education is our No. 1 priority. ... He wants our system to be one of the best in the nation. I don’t believe it’s a power kick. He’s trying to move the county forward.”
Del. Veronica Turner (D-26). Gazette, 23 Mar 2013 
But other delegates were concerned with how Baker's proposal would deal with the cooperative bargaining among the school system and teachers unions. "I'm worried how this will affect labor contracts," said Del. Veronica L. Turner (D-Dist.26) of Temple Hills.
Del. Veronica Turner (D-26). CNS, 28 Mar 2013
“The bill came too fast too late (in the session)” said Delegate Veronica Turner, D-Prince George’s. “There was no time really for us to conduct a study to understand what the county executive is trying to do.”
Both Turner and Braveboy agreed they wanted changes made to help improve Maryland’s second largest school system.  When asked whether she believed the policy was the county executive’s attempt to seek more power, Turner said Baker’s “motives were legit.”

“He knows that there are problems and he was trying to fix them,” Turner said. “But his approach of trying to fix them may not have been the right approach.”
Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-23A).  Gazette, 23 Mar 2013
Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Dist.23) of Bowie argued that the current model is faltering despite those numbers, saying decreasing enrollment is affecting state funding for Prince George's schools. "At the end of the day, the school board is advocating we follow a model that other jurisdictions are following when we are the largest in the state," she said. "It's a shared responsibility. This proposal is saying 'Can we share with you?'"
Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-23A).  Post, 23 Mar 2013
Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George’s) said she has tried to win school board support in the past two years for legislation that would offer the public more information about contracts and spending practices, but has been repeatedly rebuffed by the school board.

“This year I came in and said ‘Can we please put together a task force and look at best practices,’ ” she said. “It was vehemently opposed by the school board.”
Del. Jay Walker (D-26). Gazette, 23 Mar 2013
"My main question is 'Where's the plan?' What's the county's plan? What's the board's plan?" said Del. Jay Walker (D-Dist.26) of Fort Washington during the special hearing on the proposal in Annapolis.

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