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.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Comments on Rushern Baker's planned school coup d'etat, Part three, excuses for interfering

This is based on the two Washington Post reports cited in Part one.
Summarizing the first few paragraphs of the first Post report, the main arguments for Baker's planned takeover seem to be turmoil in the system, rapid turnover of superintendents, the education level of members of the board, and the low performance level of the school system "as it languishes near the bottom of statewide rankings."

Let's look at these points.

Turmoil. It is quite true that there has been turmoil in the system, and for many years.  What the Post and Rushern Baker's apologists don't discuss is that Baker himself is responsible for much of that turmoil.  Then Delegate Baker was largely responsible for over a decade of turmoil in board selection and membership.  Baker was the driving force before the first anti-democratic abolition of the old elected board and its replacement with a board selected through political patronage.

Now Baker is stirring the pot again, actually creating the turmoil with his current proposal that follows years of hints that he eventually planned to interfere with the schools.  When it comes to turmoil, Baker does not have clean hands.

Turnover. The way the Post and other MSM reports are written, the reader is led to believe that superintendent turnover is all the fault of the current elected board of education.  Not true!  Two of the superintendents to which the Post refers were dismissed by the appointed board created by Baker's legislation.  One of those superintendents, Andre Hornsby, was convicted of felonies committed on the job.  Hornsby was hired and supported, and later dismissed with a six-figure going away present, by the Baker-created political patronage board, chaired by one of Baker's education advisers. The Hornsby case represents turnover that never would have happened without Baker's earlier interference in school governance.

So, we have Baker trying to take over the schools in part because of turmoil and turnover he helped create, but we are supposed to believe that he will now bring stability to the system???

Education level of board members. There has been a lot of criticism of the educational level of current board members.  It is unclear what is the basis of that criticism.  None of the critics or reporters have cited any academic studies indicating any kind of correlation between school performance and the education level of board of education members.  This criticism, therefor, seems to be based on gut feelings and personal bias rather than any scientific analysis. 

Many people also complain about the lack of parent involvement in the schools.  I would note that one of the board members with the least formal education is the one with the most parental involvement--decades of activism in PTA activities and attendance at board meetings.  Most of the "better educated" members of the board don't have children in the system and have no personal stake in educational outcomes.

I would think that what is really important is that the board hire highly qualified and educated personnel to work with the students and actually administer the schools.  And that is what the board has done.  But despite the high level of education of superintendents and most administrators and teachers, results are still poor.  Is there some reason to believe that the educational levels of individual board members are more important, and more predictive of educational success than the educational levels of actual school personnel.

Languishes near the bottom of statewide rankings.  While it is true that the system ranks low, it has been improving.  Will Baker guarantee to increase the rate improvement, or will he slow it down?  What, if anything, is there about Baker's plan that would suggest he would do less harm than he has in the past?

And while we're on the subject of rankings, let's look at Baker and  libraries.  The public libraries are part of the county's overall educational system and are included in the county education budget.  Libraries are a vital supplement to the county schools.  We once had a model library system, one of the highest and best funded in the state.  The past four Democratic county executives have chipped away at the library budget.  The library system is now one of the poorest funded in the state with a budget that is half what it once was relative to the overall education budget.  Baker's budget proposal slashes the library budget again, pushing it even closer to bottom place in the rankings.

So, is being at the bottom of the rankings a significant reason for Baker's concern.  If so, why doesn't have any concern for the library component of the education budget?  Or, is Baker's concern for rankings really just an excuse to use as a justification for his power grab?  He certainly doesn't seem to be much concerned about the low ranking of the low budget library system, perhaps because the library has far less opportunity for consolidation of power and patronage?

Previous postings:

    No comments:

    Post a Comment