A bill to require a partially elected school board in Baltimore County gained overwhelming approval this week from a Senate committee, and will now go to the full Senate for a vote.
Whether the eight-year effort by a group of county legislators and parents will have enough support to become law is still in question, but Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a Democrat from Pikesville, is more optimistic that it will pass this year.
A hearing for the House bill is scheduled for next week, said Del. John Olszewski Jr., a Dundalk Democrat who chairs the county’s House delegation.
Olszewski supports a fully elected school board and said there is “a lot of momentum behind a change.”
“We’ll see if this is the year this finally gets done,” he said, but added, “there were years past when I could’ve sworn that would be the year that it would happen.”
County Executive Kevin Kamenetz remains opposed. “There are well-meaning people on both sides of this issue. I happen to believe that Baltimore County has an outstanding school board, and it is a board that has been immune to the political infighting that often characterizes elected boards,” Kamenetz said in a statement.
Kamenetz currently has a significant say in who is appointed to the school board because he recommends names to the governor, who makes the final decision. Zirkin said that gives the county executive too much influence over the school board.
“In general, appointed school boards tend to be less willing to fight against the people who gave them those positions in the first place,” Zirkin said. “We want a school board that is demanding more. We want a school board that is demanding change and demanding more because that is what is good for our children.”
Nearly all school boards in the state have at least some elected members.