It must take an awful lot of hubris for Charles C. Feaga, chairman of the Howard County Council, to accuse the county's school system of overstepping its bounds by saying it will seek a greater say on zoning changes that could cause severe school crowding.
Wasn't it Mr. Feaga and his Republican colleagues on the council who just a few short weeks ago made an unprecedented attempt to keep school officials from hiring a director of high schools? Moreover, isn't it the County Council that has been controlling the size and amenities offered in new school buildings by severely restricting the funds it grants for school construction?
Mr. Feaga apparently thinks he has the know-how to run the schools (and perhaps even the firefighting academy) and that the school board should play no role on growth issues.
To the contrary, the school board -- elected by the public -- has a responsibility to keep other county officials abreast of the impact of development on the school system, and to uphold the standards of education for which the county has become known.
County officials have been complacent in their execution of growth controls so long as school officials have remained silent. Witness the present decision to not even consider changes to the county's adequate public facilities provisions, underscoring the flaccid approach to growth controls. Recent, ugly budget battles have brought to light the gulf that separates county and school officials over the direction of education.
The school board's decision to become more vocal on zoning matters raises the issue to its appropriate level. The board most certainly has a role, if not a responsibility, to help the zoning board fully comprehend the impact of its decisions on local infrastructure, including the schools.
The school board should not -- and won't -- have the power to dictate development policy for Howard County. But zoning decisions that result in overcrowded classrooms or wrenching redistrictings don't serve existing or future residents.
Up to now, the council has forced the Board of Education to shoulder the bulk of criticism about school overcrowding. It's good to see school officials are tired of being passed the buck.