Baker said Monday that the legislation was a “work in progress.” He said he hopes the bill, which was introduced in the state Senate, would be amended by lawmakers to give him more of the control he had sought.
Baker offered the restructuring plan after years of turmoil in Maryland’s second-largest school system, which has seen rapid turnover of superintendents and modest improvement in student performance that has languished near the bottom of statewide rankings. The school system is hiring its sixth superintendent in a little more than a decade.
Similar transfers of control have happened in big cities across the country, including the District and New York, where mayors have sought to turn around troubled school systems by taking control of finances and day-to-day operations.
In Prince George’s, Baker’s plan ran into trouble last week shortly after he announced the proposal. As lawmakers from other jurisdictions pored over the details, some became particularly concerned about the precedent Baker would set if he received control of the school system’s budget.
“What we’re doing here is not just affecting Prince George’s but the other 22 counties. And that’s where everybody is very cautious,” said Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George’s), who introduced the legislation on Baker’s behalf.
Key lawmakers also worried about a provision that would allow the superintendent to set school employees’ salaries. And the lawmakers said they were concerned that the superintendent position could turn over every four years, when a new county executive is elected.
Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George’s), who backs Baker’s plan, said the measure introduced by Peters “is a little more palatable to most people. It gives consideration to the concerns of the unions and to people who thought that we were giving too much power to one office.”
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said he also was hopeful lawmakers could find a way forward, although an expansive takeover appears to face longer odds of clearing his chamber than the Senate.
Peters said that even though the legislation was introduced with just two weeks left in Maryland’s legislative session, there would be two and possibly three public hearings on it.
“We want to make sure it is properly vetted,” he said. “People can put in their thoughts, and we’ll see which direction we go.”