Toothless vote on school board

Anne Arundel: Council's hollow resolution isn't likely to settle controversy of appointed vs. elected.

August 24, 1999

IT IS DIFFICULT, if not impossible, in Maryland to reach consensus on how jurisdictions should choose their school boards. About half elect their board members; the others have appointed systems. The school boards don't set tax rates or have final say on their budgets in any case.

The interminable controversy arose again this month in Anne Arundel, where the County Council passed a toothless resolution seeking to change from an appointed to an elected system.

Under the system the county has used for decades, a nominating convention of citizens interviews and ranks potential candidates to fill vacancies. It sends its list to the governor, who appoints from among those individuals -- or ignores the recommendations and chooses someone else entirely. This hasn't bolstered faith or involvement in the convention.

The County Council's resolution to change the oft-maligned process is unlikely to go anywhere, however, because it is for the General Assembly to decide. And the county's legislative delegation, to which the full General Assembly would typically defer on a local matter, is split on the issue.

Even the County Council wasn't in unanimity. Four members voted "yes" while three abstained in declaring that the board has not been sufficiently responsive to community concerns. How it arrived at that conclusion, who knows.

And if the perception exists, electing a school board might not solve it, judging from Maryland counties with elected boards. Their residents claim just as vociferously that the decision-makers aren't accountable.

Del. John R. Leopold has for years made a sensible argument that the county executive, not the governor, should select members, with ratification by the council.

No system will be universally accepted. But the council's out-of-the-blue resolution seems unlikely to achieve a consensus.

Correction

A Saturday editorial should have identified George Armwood as the victim of a 1933 Eastern Shore lynching. The Sun regrets the error.

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