WHATEVER momentum existed to create an elected school board in Anne Arundel County has ground to a halt. An impressive collection of community groups met with Anne Arundel's legislative delegation last week and failed to receive even a lukewarm endorsement of their proposal to allow the electorate rather than the governor to select school board members.
New County Executive Janet S. Owens and the school board are still on their honeymoon. In all likelihood, changing the method for choosing school board members won't generate much legislative interest as long as relations between the executive and board remain amicable. (When the board presents its budget to Ms. Owens in a month, the current mood of pleasant relations may change.)
The prospect of selecting three new board members this year also dampened lawmakers' interest in an elected board. If the nominating convention forwards highly qualified candidates to Gov. Parris N. Glendening and he selects them, controversy about the process itself will recede.
Proponents argue that an elected board is more accountable to taxpayers and parents. Perhaps, but it's also our observation that relations are often just as fractious in the 11 Maryland counties with popularly elected boards as in those with appointed members.
Maryland's school governance structure, which calls for independent school boards receiving their annual appropriations from county governments, sets up an irreconcilable conflict. School boards are responsible for the largest proportion of local government spending, yet elected officials have minimal say in directing that spending.
Under those conditions, the method of selection is not as important as how school boards interact with elected officials once they are confronted with the difficult issues of financing education.