Baltimore County school board decides against a legislative platform

While most school districts around the state are drafting their legislative wish-list--and checking it twice--to present to their representatives in the state legislature, the Baltimore County school board voted Wednesday to nix its legislative platform this year, and instead focus on repairing a strained relationship with its county delegation.

In a 5-4 vote, board members voted against presenting a report to state lawmakers , which outlined the county's priorities and positions on issues likely to be raised in the next convening of the Maryland General Assembly.

The lengthy document, which outlined everything from the district's support for maintained state funding to its opposition to an elected school board, was due to be presented to the county delegation at a legislative forum on Nov. 19.

However, after board members raised the issues of the school system's strained relationship with the delegation, and the fact that some members didn't have enough time to dissect the document, the forum will now be some variation of a meet-and-greet.

"Several members of the delegation...don't like us," said Michael Collins, a county board member and former state legislator, who added that he had "personal knowledge" of the delegation's sentiments. "I don't think we should request anything from our delegation...I think this is trying to tell the legislators what to do."

School board President Lawrence E. Schmidt disagreed, calling it a routine practice for most school systems across the state, including Howard and Montgomery counties. Baltimore City also submits a legislative platform every year. 

"There is legislation that is habitual," Schmidt said. "And we can be assured that those issues will come up next session. And we need to get out in front of those issues, most respectfully."

Collins maintained it was "unwise to anticipate legislation, and publish a document with those [positions] out there."

Board member Valerie Roddy said there were issues, which she didn't identify, that she didn't believe the school board should be taking positions on. More importantly, she said she believed the board needed more time to discuss the document and its contents.

The county's full legislative platform can be viewed by clicking here.

Also at the school board meeting, county officials discussed its growing population--and efforts that, in the future, could help to alleviate the county's persistent problem of school overcrowding. This year the county's enrollment is projected to grow by nearly 2,000.

Of note, officials said that a residency audit in schools located in Northwest part of the county --namely at Woodholme and New Town elementary schools, which are bursting at the seams--would be on the table to ensure that students in those school zones are being served.

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