Prince George’s teachers’ union opposes Baker’s school takeover plan

The Prince George’s County teachers’ union released a statement to its members Wednesday rallying them against a proposed takeover of the county school system, saying that the plan takes away employees’ negotiating rights.

“We are outraged at what [the proposed bill] has the potential to do,” the statement reads.

The Prince George’s Educators’ Association, which represents 9,000 teachers, guidance counselors and others, said it plans to partner with other organizations who oppose Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker’s plan to put him in charge of the school superintendent and the school system’s $1.7 billion budget. The proposal would have to be approved by Maryland lawmakers.

The plan would allow the school superintendent, not the school board, to set salaries. It also diminishes the role of the board to working on academics and parental engagement.

The proposal comes after years of turmoil in Maryland’s second-largest school system, which has experienced rapid turnover in superintendents and only modest improvement in student performance as it languishes near the bottom of statewide rankings.

Union officials questioned Baker’s proposed sweeping changes to the governance structure.

“There is absolutely no reason for such drastic action at this time,” the statement reads.

In the statement, the union says that the Board of Education has maintained a balanced budget for several years, and has “climbed out of the position of being the lowest-performing district in the state based on state assessments.” Prince George's is second from the bottom after Baltimore City schools.

“It only leaves us with one answer as to why, and that is for the money,” the statement reads.

Wednesday night, the union met with the county chapter of the NAACP and Citizens for An Elected School Board— a group that in 2002 fought against Baker’s plan to dissolve the elected school board—to devise a strategy to block the proposal.

Union and civic leaders and the head of the county PTA criticized Baker for pushing the plan without offering the public a chance to provide adequate response.

David Cahn with Citizens for An Elected School Board said the structure proposed by Baker leaves the school board intact for “show.”

“We will be calling on you for your support for certain activities, and the turnaround time will likely need to be immediate,” the statement reads.

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.
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