How the Baltimore County Board of Education is constituted is now totally under the control of the state and Baltimore County government leaders. The board is appointed by the governor (with strong recommendations by the county executive).
Yet at the local, state and national levels of government, top leadership is generally elected and appointed. That's how democracy works. Why should Baltimore County's school board not be elected? Why shouldn't candidates stand before their fellow citizens and explain why they should be elected and ask for their votes? Given the fact that 95 percent of school boards nationwide are elected, having an all-elected board is hardly breaking new ground.
The argument that the board would lack diversity is weak. Currently, three of the four at-large positions, established to ensure equity on the board, are not minorities, and none of the four lives in a minority neighborhood.
If enough time and thought are put in to setting up the nonpartisan districts, racial diversity can be achieved. A friend of mine suggested dividing the districts by high schools trying to equalize student population via feeder patterns for the high school. This should ensure racial equity if properly done since minority students are now the majority in Baltimore County schools. I am sure there are many other good ideas.
Board members must be paid enough to enable them to run an effective, if nonpartisan, campaign. I am sure that Maryland legislators are paid as well as county council members who usually hold part-time jobs. Remember that Baltimore County's school system is the third largest in Maryland and the 26th largest in the nation.
I am personally sick of Baltimore County officials thinking that they are more capable of choosing school board members than the voting public. I am looking forward to working for a fully-elected Baltimore County Board of Education next year in Annapolis. We have to start now so that we can determine how the school districts should be set up and share these plans with our elected officials. We need to unite like-minded citizens.
We, the people of Baltimore County, can be successful in getting a fully-elected school board!
Meg O'Hare, Carney