Freeman Bills Would Limit School Board's Independence

January 12, 1992|By Samuel Goldreich | Samuel Goldreich,Staff writer

State Sen. Habern Freeman, D-34, is proposing three bills to curtailthe independence of the county school board.

The measures would provide for voter election of four of the seven members of the Board of Education and, alternatively, either deny the County Council the right to increase school spending or require a referendum to do so.

The school board election bill was in draft form Friday, and the other two bills were prefiled before the session began.

Under the current county charter, board members are chosen by the governor following evaluations of candidates by the Harford Permanent Nominating Caucus and state senators.

And the council has power to restore money cut by the county executive from the school board budget. In all other departments, the council can only cut from the executive's budget proposal.

The bills are designed to increase taxpayer control over schools at a time when the state is asking local governments to increase their share of the costs of education, said Freeman, elected senator in 1990 after completing two four year terms as county executive.

"I sat for years and watched the school board be totally responsive to the superintendent and vice-versa," he said. "There is no place where the local jurisdiction has input to a system that we support to the extent of 70 percent of the budget."

That's not true, said board president George Lisby, who predicted that school Superintendent Ray R. Keech won't get everything he wants in the budget he will unveil tomorrow night.

"This year's budget, we're going to have tomake cuts because the funds just aren't available," Lisby said.

Freeman said that taxpayers can't afford the $100 million expansion program the board already has approved to build new schools through theend of the century.

County PTA president Victoria Kornick agreed that the school board needs new blood and that it was a captive of Keech's predecessor, who served 17 years.

But she argued that the nominating caucus fairly represents all county residents and the council's budget power should be preserved to balance the executive veto.

"Freeman's a maverick," said David Petr, legislative vice presidentfor the county PTA and its statewide counterpart. "He's out of touchwith the people of Harford County and he was the same way when he was county executive."

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