“People think the county executive is running the schools, but all he can do is send money,” Ivey said. “If he is going to be judged on our schools, he needs to do more.”
Should Baker’s plan meet approval in Annapolis, the county executive would gain control of school system operations, with the schools superintendent becoming a member of his cabinet and gaining significantly more power. The County Council would confirm Baker’s choice for schools chief and have oversight of the schools’ budget.
The Board of Education would gain six new members, three of whom would be appointed and have voting powers. But its function would be diminished, focusing almost entirely on academics and parental engagement.
State Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s) said he plans to support Baker’s proposed state legislation, which likely will be added as amendments to a bill that Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George’s) proposed months ago to form a task force to review the operations of the school board.
“I think he is going in the right direction,” Currie said, describing the school system as the “weak link” in the county’s ability to move forward. Baker has long said the schools — which rank toward the bottom of Maryland’s school systems in terms of achievement — are a hurdle to economic growth.
Bob Ross, president of the county branch of the NAACP, said his members would mobilize to oppose Baker’s proposal. Ross questioned Baker’s strategy of adding late amendments to a bill designed to examine the Board of Education’s future.
“They told us the bill would form an exploratory committee to look at making the school board accountable. Now all of a sudden they want to put an amendment in,” Ross said.
Tonya Lawson, president of the Oxon Hill High School Parent Teacher Student Association, said she plans to work with Baker to make his plan become a reality.
“This is a time for radical change to happen,” Lawson said. “What’s the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing and expecting a different result? We can’t continue like that. . . . There has to be a new way of thinking in order for us to move forward.”