Time ripe for passage of hybrid school board bill [Editorial]

A proposal to change the Baltimore County School Board from an all-appointed body to a mixture of appointed and elected members, usually called a "hybrid board," has been on the table for years without becoming a reality. This year, that might change. We hope so.

State law requires that any such change be made by the General Assembly, which is currently in session in Annapolis. Last session, a hybrid board bill almost made it, but failed to cross the finish line. This year, a similar bill is also closing in on passage in both the House of Delegates and Senate.

At present, the school board is entirely appointed by the governor based on recommendations by the county executive. While the argument is made (perhaps disingenuously) that appointed members are "above the fray" and need not worry about which way political winds are blowing, it is also true that appointed members need not feel answerable to constituents — including parents with children in the schools and voters as a whole — because their board seat will not be challenged in a voting booth.

All-appointed school boards are not the norm in this state. Some 86 percent of Maryland school boards have at least some elected members.

The pending bill proposes seven elected members, one from each councilmanic district and four appointed, along with an appointed student member.

One political obstacle to a hybrid board bill has been opposition by County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who favors an appointed board. Now, however, he said compromises have moved the bill in a "positive direction." It is worth noting that Kamenetz's term in office will be over when the bill being offered this year would take effect in 2018.

So, the time looks ripe for passage. There will be a flurry of business before the General Assembly adjourns April 7, and we hope the hybrid board bill hits green lights all the way to the finish, and then we hope Gov. Martin O'Malley signs it. It is past time for Baltimore County to update its school board selection process.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad