ANNAPOLIS — After more than three months of working on recommendations to improve the Prince George’s County public school structure, nothing will change for now.
A proposal to allow elected members of the school board to select a vice chair and create an inspector general office died in a Senate committee on Monday, the last day of the Maryland General Assembly.
The committee didn’t receive a letter of recommendation from senators who represent Prince George’s to state their position on the idea, so the current system of the county executive choosing the board’s chair and vice chair will continue.
In addition, two-thirds of the board, or exactly half its 14 members, can vote on any item contrary to the chief executive officer. The proposed change in the legislation was three-fifths, or eight of the 14 members.
The House unanimously approved both bills labeled HB 184 (inspector general) and HB 186 (school board structure).
Some blame longtime state lawmaker and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., who supports a hybrid structure over an all-elected school board. Miller resides in Calvert County but represents portions of Prince George’s and backs County Executive Rushern L. Baker III.
“I think it’s sad when one or two persons can set the agenda for all the elected officials who are here, and we would be deaf to what our constituents have asked us for,” said Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-District 26) of Accokeek, who presented legislation for an all-elected school board. “We’ve heard from hundreds from our constituents that they wanted change.”
The proposed changes stemmed from controversies such as alleged pay raises for high-ranking school staff and grade inflation among high school seniors that some officials, educators and residents have called lack of accountability.
According to a brief, historical analysis of the legislation, Prince George’s swayed through changes to the school board structure and a hybrid format with nine members in 2002.
In December 2006, the legislature changed to all nine members elected with five from a particular district and four at-large colleagues.
Based on a recommendation in 2012 from Baker, state lawmakers approved to add four appointed members and expand the board to 13. The county executive can currently appoint three members, select both chair and vice chair and the County Council approve a third member.
A high school student makes up the 14th person on the board, but she’s chosen by a regional Student Government Association and doesn’t vote on the budget, school closings and personnel matters.
The Prince George’s County Educators Association released a statement Tuesday, April 10 to express its displeasure with state officials who ignored the union’s no-confidence vote in February on the school system’s top leadership.
“Over the past few years, our educators have watched PGCPS lose $6 million in Head Start money, over 600 educators placed on administrative leave and a grading scandal that emanated from the [school system’s] central office,” said union President Theresa Mitchell Dudley. “There is no accountability to the PGCPS Board of Education.”
Belinda Queen, a member of the county’s Democratic Central Committee running for a school board seat, supports an all-elected board.
“The people wanted an all-elected school board,” Queen said in Annapolis minutes after the General Assembly’s last session ended after midnight Tuesday. “We should not be compromising on the backs of the voters. We have to learn as elected and appointed officials we have to fight for the voters. If we cannot be their voice, then we don’t need to be in office.”