Baltimore County senators defeat school board bill

County delegation instead supports bill to study issue of adding some elected members

February 24, 2011|By Raven L. Hill, The Baltimore Sun

Efforts to create a partly elected Baltimore County school board were defeated Thursday in Annapolis as the county Senate delegation instead threw its support behind a bill that would appoint a task force to study the issue.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin to add some elected members to the appointed board was defeated by a 5-3 vote. Only Zirkin and co-sponsors Jim Brochin and Joseph Getty voted in favor of the bill.

Zirkin said he won't stop fighting for the bill, which he expects will pass next year.

"I am going to keep pushing this to give our voters a say until they're afforded the rights that most other citizens of the state have," said Zirkin, adding that two senators indicated they would support the bill in 2012. "The voters of Baltimore County are more than capable of making up their own minds. Politicians should not stand in the way of that."

Sen. Kathy Klausmeier, chair of the delegation, sponsored the opposing bill, which also had the support of County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. That bill passed by a 7-1 vote, with Brochin dissenting.

State lawmakers questioned Zirkin a few weeks ago about his bill, expressing concern about diversity, public input and student outcomes. The county Board of Education and county branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People were opposed to the bill.

Patricia Cook Ferguson, president of the county NAACP, said she was pleased by Thursday's vote.

"I'm happy that the Senate heard the people of the county and didn't rush to judgment," Ferguson said. "We're not saying, 'Don't change.' We're saying, 'Study before you change.'"

Kamenetz said during the hearing a few weeks ago that Klausmeier's bill would give the public as well as the new administration and County Council members an opportunity to weigh in.

The Teachers Association of Baltimore County has held forums in recent weeks about the issue.

raven.hill@baltsun.com

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