A long-standing drive to pick school board members through elections got a half-hearted kick-start this week when the county council passed a resolution asking state lawmakers to pass a law allowing board elections.
But the council, which passed the resolution on the strength of four "yes" votes and three abstentions Monday night, left all the disagreeable and politically charged details for state lawmakers to figure out.
"This is very little help to the General Assembly," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno. "It's a shallow resolution."
The one-page resolution carries no authority or power of law, and only states that the current nominating convention does not work. It asks that the law be changed to require board members to be elected in the same way other politicians are. It does not address whether the board should have taxing authority.
"Well, that's the argument used by opponents to confuse and make it more complicated than it is," said County Councilman William Burlison, who introduced the resolution this month. "If they want to give it fiscal autonomy, that is their prerogative. However, they want to dress it up."
But Jimeno, along with some of his colleagues, say they are not in favor of changing the current process that allows the governor to make the final board picks.
"My bottom line is that how is having an elected board going to attract quality school board members or improve the school system?" Jimeno said. "They don't answer that."
Local politicians and community activists have debated Jimeno's question for years. Studies show no significant advantages to having an elected board rather than an appointed one. And without taxing authority -- no Maryland school board has that power -- how would an elected board be any different?
Three council members -- A. Shirley Murphy, of Pasadena, Barbara Samorajczyk of Annapolis and Vice Chairwoman Pamela Beidle of Linthicum -- abstained from voting Monday night.
"The county council does not have jurisdiction in this," Samorajczyk said. "This really needs to be dealt with by the General Assembly."
But last winter, pleas to state lawmakers for an elected board from the county's largest community associations and the County Council of PTAs did not impress the delegation, which listened patiently and ultimately did nothing.
The convention consists of citizens groups that give the governor two candidates for each open school board slot. Critics complain that governors sometimes ignore recommendations.
Three years ago, former County Executive John G. Gary led a charge to make the appointments. County legislators supported him, but the bill died in committee.
Pub Date: 8/18/99