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Zirkin Proposes Elected School Board

Bill skips hybrid elected-appointed board in favor of one that is smaller and fully elected.

Forget a partially elected appointed school board.

Sen. Bobby Zirkin said Tuesday he's proposing to change the composition of the Baltimore County Public Schools board to an all elected body beginning in 2014.

"I would support either a hybrid or fully elected," said Zirkin. "The principle here is to bring the democratic process to Baltimore County finally."

The bill would also create a leaner board with nine members plus a student member instead of the current 12.

The bill provides for a commission to establish districts separate from state legislative and council districts from which school board candidates would run. There would be no at-large members of the board.

Zirkin said the districts would seek to ensure minority representation on the board.

Zirkin served on a task force last summer that ultimately made no recommendation on solving the question of how members of the board of education should be selected. The Democratic senator has favored a partially elected school board for the last six years.

"As big a farce as that task force was, the one thing we learned was that student performance was not affected by how the board is selected," said Zirkin.

Two weeks ago, school board President Lawrence Schmidt told the county's House and Senate delegations that any changes to how the board is selected would to outgoing Superintendent Joe Hairston.

Zirkin called that "a bogus argument."

"That is yet another stall tactic," said Zirkin. "I'm sure that will be the line of the year to put this off. There's always a reason to stall giving Baltimore County residents their say."

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Bart February 01, 2012 at 03:34 PM
I don't think elected Shcool Boards are a good choice. It would mean they would have to jump into the fray of fund-raising; the best candidates might not be willing to do this. With the low pay, there are often highly funded groups willing to fund a possible candidate to push their own agenda. Keep the school board selected by a group of highly motivated people. It's too important to be left to the highest bidder. Just look what happened in Dover, PA., where the School Board mandated the teaching of "Intelligent Design" in schools there. The parents had to take the School Board to court to get the ruling overturned.
Josh Glikin February 01, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Dear commentator who says, "We elect the "leader of the free world", congress, and our state and local representatives, yet there is concern that the general public lacks the ability to place appropriate people on the school board." No, we don't. Special interest groups and new super pacs do. I think what the commentators are saying is that the same thing could happen to the school board. Is anyone satisfied with the people who are placed in Congress? Yet, guess what percentage will be re-elected.
Karl Pfrommer February 01, 2012 at 08:02 PM
We are not happy with the current school board. Why on earth would we want to delay change in the way board members are chosen? Why allow the current board to appoint the next superintendant? Justice delayed is justice denied. An elected school board must answer to the voters, those who are most affected by the board's decisions. An appointed school board answers to a professional politician who wants to further his own career and is less dependant upon our approval. The closer we are to politicians and issues, the better we can see them for what they are. As Tip O'Neil said, "All politics is local."
Paul Amirault February 01, 2012 at 08:31 PM
All I can say Karl is beware of what you wish for, see links and comments above as to what you may get. I believe an elected board is worse than what we have now. The highest paid superintendent in the state of Maryland is leaving and the Board knows we are unhappy.

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