The House of Delegates approved emergency legislation yesterday to strip the embattled Prince George's County school board of most of its power.
The measure goes to the Senate, where supporters hope for quick approval and say it could be on Gov. Parris N. Glendening's desk within two weeks. The governor has said he will sign the bill.
"Every day ... I gamble with my children's lives" by sending them to the county public schools, Del. Rushern L. Baker III, a Prince George's Democrat, said during an emotional debate before the vote. "If you think I will sit quietly and watch this system destruct itself, I won't."
The House voted four days after the county school board saw its firing of Superintendent Iris T. Metts unanimously reversed by the state school board. The state board ruled that local school boards don't have the authority to fire their superintendents, finding that state law limits that power exclusively to the state superintendent.
The emergency bill would create a crisis management board appointed by the governor, county executive and state schools superintendent. The local elected board would need to obtain the new panel's permission on major policy, personnel and spending decisions.
Yesterday's House vote was 94-29, with 17 abstentions - nine more votes than the 85 required for passage of an emergency bill. It followed a debate that included opposition from a handful of Prince George's delegates and most Republicans.
Republicans charged that the state shouldn't strip power from a local school board elected by county voters. "It sets a precedent, a dangerous precedent," said Del. James F. Ports Jr. of Baltimore County.