www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/bs-ed-county-schools-letter-20120416,0,4701489.story

baltimoresun.com

Crying wolf over an elected school board

7:30 AM EDT, April 16, 2012

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The letter by Mel Mintz supporting County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's opposition to elected representation on the Baltimore County school board ("Time to devise better plan for county school board," April 11), has major problems and inaccuracies.

The idea that parents have nothing better to do than to elect members to the school board who would "introduce many unnecessary frills" to the school budget is insulting. Is asking for relief for overcrowding, so that all children have a seat in their classrooms and are not taught in the hall or in closets, and climate control, so that teachers and children are not ill and collapsing in hot classrooms, "frilly?"

Mr. Mintz is also ignorant of the budgeting process. No school board in Maryland has taxing authority, and it is impossible for the board to grant "frilly" requests and then not pay for them. Schools receive a portion of the county budget and must make do with what they receive.

By suggesting that some "parallel school board" meet and report on the actions of the school board, Mr. Mintz displays a total lack of understanding of local problems. Many groups and individuals already meet and/or vocally express their concerns about the school board, including Towson Families United, Citizens for an Accountable Baltimore County School Board, and various Sun reporters. A "ghost" board brings us no closer to the solutions to overcrowding and climate control that we desperately need.

His other suggestion, two county-wide elected members, would never permit the necessary familiarity with all 173 schools to effectively solve the problems unique to each school.

The vast majority (95 percent) of all school boards in the United States have elected representation, and 20 out of 24 jurisdictions in Maryland have elected representation on their school boards. Of the four left, Anne Arundel, Baltimore City and Baltimore County have all tried to get elected members on their boards over the past few years. As long as Baltimore County's school board is all appointed, the board will never be accountable or responsive to the people — only to the County Executive.

We did not elect Mr. Kamenetz to represent us in Annapolis; he is not a voting member of the state legislature. Yet he has obstructed our state legislators who worked all session long to get our citizens a representative school board.

Laurie Taylor-Mitchell and Julie Sugar, Baltimore

The writers are members of Citizens for an Accountable Baltimore County School Board.