The Maryland General Assembly has taken three actions that affect the Howard County school system, including one that would allow the student member on the Board of Education to vote on some matters.
Another would enact a mandatory union fee for the majority of system employees, and a third would increase funding for construction projects.
House Bill 513, which grants voting rights for the student member, and House Bill 881, which allows unions to charge a service fee to the majority of employees in the school system, require final approval by Gov. Martin O'Malley to become law.
For the past year, the student voting rights issue has been hashed out within the school system. If O'Malley signs the bill into law, the next student member on the board would be allowed to vote on everything except site acquisitions, condemnation, consolidation, architect selection, appointment and salary of the superintendent, collective bargaining issues, employee discipline and other appeals, appointments, the capital and operating budgets, and student suspensions and expulsions.
The bill also addresses how the student member would affect the voting dynamic of the board. When the student member votes, five votes would be necessary to pass an item; four votes would be needed without the student member. The bill states that juniors and seniors who live in the county and attend a public school are eligible for the position. It also states that students enrolled in the system's middle or high schools will vote to fill the position.
The Board of Education is expected to approve the student board member election results during its May 10 meeting. The new member likely would be sworn in at a later meeting.
The Maryland State Teachers Association, National Education Association and Howard County Education Association have fought for the past eight years to require teachers and support staff in the school system who are not union members to pay a fee for their services.
"These people have benefited from our contracts -- the raises, working conditions and working environment," said Ann DeLacy, president of the Howard County Education Association, the union representing 5,500 employees in the school system. More than 80 percent of the system's teachers are members of the association. "We've had a very collaborative relationship with the school board and members of the County Council," she said.
DeLacy said that the union has to negotiate the amount of the fee with the school system.
The legislative session also resulted in the Howard County school system receiving $23.2 million for construction projects. The money was part of a record $400 million that O'Malley requested for statewide school construction.