Gov. Parris N. Glendening named the outgoing head of the Prince George's County school board yesterday to head a task force studying the state's financing of public schools -- a choice that dismayed some key legislators.
The lawmakers said Alvin Thornton's close ties to one of the state's largest school systems -- and one that has come under criticism from the legislature in recent years -- could undermine the group's work over the next year and a half.
"Alvin Thornton is a very, very smart man, but I think the selection taints the view that people have of how fair and unbiased this [task force] may be," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, chairwoman of the Senate budget committee.
Thornton, the chairman of the department of political science at Howard University in Washington, said he was confused by the criticism and was confident he could lead the panel impartially.
"I am interested in making sure that no outside considerations get in the way of this commission," Thornton said. "That's the bottom line for me."
Glendening said he has known Thornton for a long time and said he had the support of several Prince George's County senators as well as U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn, who represents most of that county in Congress.
"I've always known him to be a fair, decent person," Glendening said.
The 27-member task force, which includes 10 legislators, is to study the state's system of financing public schools -- with the expected goal of attempting to address financial inequities among school districts.
Glendening and key lawmakers said they do not expect any recommendations from the task force in time for the General Assembly session that begins in January. The group is expected to report its views in time for consideration in 2001.
Along with Hoffman, Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, criticized Glendening's selection of Thornton, saying the governor should have picked someone in an impartial position.
Rawlings said he would not serve on the panel, as planned, because Thornton will serve as chairman.