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Monday, March 18, 2013

Comments on Rushern Baker's planned school coup d'etat, Part one, what the Post didn't report

The Washington Post has two reports by Ovetta Wiggins on a plan by Rushern Baker to take over control of Prince George's County Schools.

Prince George's county executive moves to take over struggling school system
(originally posted online 16 Mar 2013)

Prince George's County reacts to Rushern Baker's plan to take over the school system
(originally posted online 17 Mar 2013)

Both reports appear to accept without question or analysis Baker's theses that (1) the county has a struggling school system, (2) it is the fault of the board of education, and (3) a takeover by Baker will fix the problems.

Although most people would agree with the first point, even without any real analysis, the other two points are certainly open to challenge and it is unfortunate that the media seems to be reporting the Baker party line rather than providing any independent review or analysis.

One relevant fact not reported by the Post is that Baker is now proposing to do something he earlier said he would NOT do.  The late TBD news service (part of the WJLA empire) reported on 6 Dec 2010 that Baker said ""I know when I say this, people think, 'Is he trying to take over the school board?'...Absolutely not" (http://t.co/EgKMX1pnpf).  Was he lying, or has he changed his mind?  Does the Post not know, or not care, or trying to protect Baker from embarrassment?

Also ignored by the Post is what happened after the last time Baker interfered with an elected school board.  A decade ago Baker was one of the driving forces behind replacing the then elected school board with a politically appointed board.  That board appointed a superintendent (Andre Hornsby) with a very questionable background who was later convicted of felonies while on the job in Prince George's County.  Not only did the Baker-sponsored appointed board fail to oversee the system and superintendent, they stood behind their felon until the bitter end and then gave him a six-figure going away present.

And the chairman of the appointed board, the person primarily responsible for hiring and protecting Hornsby, was Beatrice Tignor, one of Baker's allies and chief education advisors.  At about the same time the Hornsby case was developing, the appointed board was apparently oblivious to even more criminal activity at the top of the school system--associate superintendent Pamela Hoffler-Riddick was convicted of laundering drug money and served time in federal prison.

Apparently, these problems resulting from Baker's previous interference with the schools don't fit the image of Baker or his plan that the Post prefers to present to its readers.

As I read the two Post reports I kept wondering what the bill numbers are and who is sponsoring them.  The Post reports don't say, nor do they explain what I discovered from other sources.  Apparently the plan is to have the House of Delegates approve HB 1107 in its current form, then amend the bill in the Senate to accommodate Baker's request.  There has been significant community opposition to HB 1107 in any form.  Some of its supporters have claimed that it is not intended to lead to any kind of takeover of the schools.  Why did the two Post reports ignore the history of this bill and the apparent strategy for using it as the vehicle for Baker's power grab?

While I am glad that the Post has begun to tell us what Baker is trying to do, I am disappointed that they have not told us the whole story.  More coming in the next installment.

1 comment:

  1. This is an eye-opening companion piece to the Washington Post articles: a much fuller story is conveyed with the facts found here.

    Personally, I believe it would be unwise to underestimate the depths of corruption within the Sasscer building itself: if Synthia Shilling, Roger Thomas, and Matthew Stanski can get thrown under the bus (and these are smart, educated people who were in high-level positions), then it is unimaginable what the remaining officials might do to hold on to power (and their 1.7 billion dollar budget).

    The students, parents, and teachers of PGC: caught between a brick and a hard place.