Gary presses fight to appoint school board Renewed battle likely next year, official says

April 09, 1996|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

County Executive John G. Gary, undeterred by partisan criticism he has endured in recent weeks, plans to visit the State House next year with legislation that would allow him or his successor to appoint Anne Arundel's school board.

Hours before a similar bill died in the General Assembly last night -- ending the latest chapter in what has become a perennial struggle for control of the county's $417 million education budget -- Mr. Gary said that unless the board reins in spending he would lobby again for the power to appoint seven of its eight members.

"If they can make their budgets, bring in their [construction] bids, cut the cost of government like everybody else is doing, then I don't need that headache," Mr. Gary said yesterday. "My job is big enough already."

The governor now appoints all but the board's student member.

Mr. Gary's push for that authority has drawn fire from parent-teacher groups, the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County and Democratic legislators who say the Republican executive is trying to amass too much power.

As the General Assembly wound down yesterday, Mr. Gary's allies in the House delegation tried to resuscitate a bill that would give him appointing authority. The legislation appeared to be bottled up with the county's Senate delegation, which deadlocked on the issue last week.

But with hours left in the session, the House delegation voted 7-4 on a measure that would allow the county executive to appoint board members from candidates selected by a nominating convention and approved by the County Council.

Most significantly, the bill would not take effect until 1999, an amendment its Republican supporters believed would smooth the measure's partisan edges.

That year would be the start of Mr. Gary's second term or the beginning of his successor's tenure.

"That way we all have to go through another election," said Del. Phillip D. Bissett, an Edgewater Republican who chairs the county's House delegation.

But time ran out on the measure, which had to clear several substantial legislative hurdles to be eligible to become law by midnight.

Del. Joan Cadden, a Brooklyn Park Democrat, walked the House floor lobbying colleagues against the measure most of the afternoon.

"For them to try this at the last minute is ridiculous," she said.

Ms. Cadden has said she might spend the summer gathering signatures for a referendum creating an elected school board. While the idea appeals to teachers unions and parent groups, Mr. Gary said it would turn board elections into a part of partisan machine politics.

Pub Date: 4/09/96

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