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Keeping politics out of Md. education

Your editorial, "Education politics" (Feb. 18) justifiably expresses alarm that the General Assembly is considering legislation that would place appointment of the State Superintendent of Schools in the political arena. Companion bills, House Bill 570 and Senate Bill 404 (which was due for a floor vote but which has been sent back to committee), would subject the appointment of the superintendent to approval of the Senate.

It is ironic that the General Assembly of 1914 was concerned that public schools suffered from political influence and requested an outside study of the governance of the system. The result was the Flexner Commission, named after Abraham Flexner, a noted educator from New York. He concluded that the Maryland system "was infested with the vicissitudes of partisan politics." His recommendations were adopted by the General Assembly in 1916. The new law established many requirements that still exist a century later, e.g., the 180-day school year and free textbooks. Arguably, the most important reform of the legislation took the appointment of the state superintendent of schools out of the hands of the governor and placed it within the powers of the State Board of Education, the system that exists today.

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This led to long tenure of state superintendents, including Nancy Grasmick, who was the instructional leader when Maryland schools were rated best or near best in the nation. Why would the General Assembly wish to regress a century?

Robert Y. Dubel, Glen Arm

The writer is the former superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools.

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