Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George’s) said he told Baker that the General Assembly would not approve his proposal. “It needs to be retooled to have a chance,” Peters said. Throughout the week, Baker’s aides, working with Senate staffers, redrafted the legislation, which is slated to be introduced Monday, according to lawmakers.
Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Baker (D), said in a statement that the county executive’s proposal is proceeding through a routine process.
“Like any legislation, at any level of government, there will be those who support the bill, those who oppose it and those who will amend it,” he said.
Baker and Verjeana M. Jacobs, who chairs the Board of Education, are scheduled to meet Saturday morning with the county’s House delegation to discuss the proposal.
Whatever the outcome, Baker’s takeover bid has become the latest test of his power in Prince George’s, a county known for its contentious politics. Over the course of decades, racial and class conflicts have played out in the school system, whether the issue was busing, the selection of a superintendent or management control.
Elected on a promise of stabilizing a county reeling from scandal, Baker has presided over falling crime rates and rising home values. And he helped lead a successful campaign to bring casino gambling to the county.
Yet a key piece of his quest to revive Prince George’s has remained beyond his grasp: the long-struggling school system, which has frustrated generations of county leaders.
In the days leading up to his announcement, Baker sought to sell his plan to county leaders in Annapolis. He conferred with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and even Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), who has deep roots in the county.
He would take control of the budget and selection of the new superintendent, he told them. He would support the retention of an elected board. While Prince George’s lawmakers embraced the conceptual underpinning of his plan, some legislators from across the state have said they became concerned after examining the details.
The lawmakers expressed worry about setting a precedent by allowing the leader of one county to assume control of the schools — would other county executives also ask for such powers?
In addition, labor leaders and lawmakers have said they opposed a provision in Baker’s proposal that would have the superintendent set teachers’ salaries. They prefer to continue to have salaries negotiated by the school board, which now controls the budget.
In seeking to take over the schools, Baker is following a path traveled by mayors from New York to California. Like those leaders, Baker is betting that he can produce results that will endear him to voters, retain residents and attract new investment.