For years, we at Red Maryland have been covering the issue of various localities seeking elected school boards. We have taken particular interest in the efforts of state Democrats, and too often complicit Republicans, in thwarting every bill to give Anne Arundel citizens the chance to directly elect members of the school board.
This year's General Assembly session has continued the trend. A bill supported by Anne Arundel Republican Senators Ed Reilly (R-33) and Bryan Simonaire (R-31) was voted down in the county's Senate Delegation by a 3-2 party line vote. Democratic Senators Ed DeGrange (D-32) and John Astle (D-30) were joined by Senator James C. Rosapepe (D-21) in defeating the bill. Disturbingly, Rosapepe's district is contained almost exclusively in Prince George's County, which has a school board with elected members. Roaspepe voted to deny his few constituents in Anne Arundel County the same opportunity for direct input into who sits on the county school board that his many Prince George's constituents already have.
In the House of Delegates, Republican members of the Anne Arundel delegation have the votes to support the bill. The vote of their Senate colleagues, however, has led some local leaders to abandon the fight this session, including lobbyists on behalf of Republican County Executive Laura Neuman who decided not to submit testimony in favor of an elected school board during the county delegation meeting. Delegate Steve Schuh (R-31), the Anne Arundel delegation's chairman, intends to press for a vote in the House of Delegates and vocally criticized the current school board selection process as "outrageous".
Most county residents, regardless of party affiliation, support a fully elected school board. The current school board selection process, adopted over five years ago, is a disgrace, serving only as a reservoir of patronage for the governor, county executive and select special interests. The "retention elections" which are currently held for appointed members are a sham. These "elections" were created so that cynical politicians can claim they are keeping faith with voters while squashing any real accountability for the political cronies who end up receiving appointments.
Anne Arundel citizens deserve an elected school board that is accountable directly to them. This can never happen, however, until Senators like John Astle and Ed DeGrange are replaced and until supporters of an elected school board remain unflinching in their fight.
--Greg Kline is a co-founder and contributing editor for Red Maryland, which has strived to be the premier blog and radio network of conservative and Republican politics and ideas in the free state since 2007. A Maryland attorney, Greg was part of the legal team that defeated the General Assembly's effort to fire the Public Service Commission in 2006. He is a former Republican candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates and for chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. His Red Maryland posts appear here regularly.