Governor's authority over schools is challenged County lawmakers seek backing for bill on school board appointments

November 29, 1995|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A group of Anne Arundel County lawmakers voted last night to seek backing of the full legislative delegation for a bill that would limit the governor's authority in appointing county school board members.

The proposal would continue the existing system of a grass-roots citizen nominating convention, but insist that the governor choose school board members from the convention's top three vote-getters. At present, the governor can ignore local preferences.

But Sen. Philip Jimeno, a Brooklyn Park Democrat who heads the county General Assembly delegation, said the proposal won't fly.

"A big player in this is going to be the governor. We are narrowing his choices," he said.

In addition to questions of a veto, there are legal questions such a measure would pose, he said.

Senator Jimeno and Del. Joan Cadden, another Brooklyn Park Democrat, voted against the proposal, with Ms. Cadden doubting that it would pass the House, let alone the Senate.

Mr. Jimeno wanted to continue the existing process, having received from Gov. Parris N. Glendenning a letter of support for the convention process. And Ms. Cadden wants an elected school board.

Voting for the measure were Sens. John Astle and Michael Busch, and Dels. John Leopold -- who proposed it -- and Michael Burns.

The vote ended a contentious meeting of a committee of the delegation after three nights of public hearings on what, if any, measure the lawmakers should introduce in the coming General Assembly session about selecting school board members.

That process has come under fire in recent years. Seven times in the last 12 years, the Anne Arundel county executive has persuaded the governor to ignore the convention's choices, and participation by community groups in the convention has dwindled to a fraction of what it once was.

The bill would be similar to one of four school board selection bills that failed last year.

Under that one, introduced by Mr. Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, a nominating commission would have been created to screen candidates, and was to send three names to the governor, who could select only from that list.

Nevertheless, Mr. Astle said, problems residents perceive with the county's public schools are not going to be answered by codifying the process by which board members are chosen.

"This is not going to be a panacea. There is a disconnect between the parents, the lay board and the educators," he said.

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