'Hybrid' school board bill defeated in state Senate delegation

The state Senate's latest attempt to add representation to Baltimore County's Board of Education died again Tuesday morning when Sen. Ed Kasemeyer withdrew his support for the bill, causing a 4-4 deadlock in the Baltimore County delegation's vote.

The story was first reported by Patch.com.

Initially, the bill mirrored what was passed out of the Senate Education, Health and Environmenal Affairs committee last year: Six members of the board would be elected from school board districts drawn by the County Council, while five would remain appointed by the governor. The 12th member would continue to be a Baltimore County Public School student.

Currently, the governor appoints the 12-member school board with input from the Baltimore County executive.

But in recent weeks, amendments stalled it in the county delegation. The bill was amended to restore it to the form the county delegation approved last year, with seven elected members from the county's seven council districts.

But that amendment caused some members to rethink and even change their positions, county school advocate Karl Pfrommer said.

Advocates for adding elected representation to the county school board believed that last year's progress, which saw the Senate bill released from committee on Sine Die without coming to a full vote, would continue to the bill's passage this year.

But just as in past years, concerns about minority representation and a desire to maintain the status quo derailed the bill. Sen. Delores Kelley, whose District 11 includes parts of Catonsville and Woodlawn, has frequently questioned whether a new bill would help or hurt racial diversity on the board.

Additionally, several senators have sided with County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who has consistently opposed the bill.

Last year, Kamenetz cited the ongoing search for a new superintendent as a reason not to change the board's make-up.

Now that S. Dallas Dance has replaced former Superintendent Joe A. Hairston, Kamenetz said time should be given to the new superintendent and board to see how responsive they are to community concerns.

Del. Steve Lafferty, who represents District 42 including Towson and Timonium and sponsored the companion bill in the House of Delegates, said progress on the House side is moot without a Senate bill reaching the floor as well.

"It's extremely disappointing," Lafferty said, citing the support from organizations like the county League of Women Voters and PTA Council as a reason for optimism this year.

"It takes a number of years to pass good legislation," Lafferty said. "We'll just see that next year's bill is a little stronger."

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