MARYLAND’S TEACHERS UNIONS wield a lot of influence in Annapolis. But their success in lobbying the state’s predominantly Democratic lawmakers was apparently not enough when they recently sought to obtain the right to seat representatives of their choice on the state’s independent board of education. Good that Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed this misguided effort to give special interests a direct hand in setting education policy.
A bill that would have changed the composition of the Maryland State Board of Education by adding three seats that would have gone to two current teachers and the parent of a current public school student was vetoed May 24 by Mr. Hogan. Under the measure, which did not attract much attention and was approved with overwhelming Democratic support, the governor would have been required to appoint members to the board from a list produced by the Maryland State Education Association and Baltimore Teachers Union. The parent member would have been selected from a list of parents chosen by the Maryland Parent Teacher Association. The veto is final because it came in the last year of the four-year legislative term; the next General Assembly will lack the authority to override Mr. Hogan.
Supporters of the measure blasted Mr. Hogan, arguing that it’s just common sense to have teachers at the table when policies are developed that affect students. Real-life experience does have value, but there’s no question about whose interests would really be represented by appointees hand-picked by lobbying organizations. The state board, composed of 11 regular members and one student member, currently includes people with diverse backgrounds and experience, including educators and public school parents, and they get advice from a state education department that is chock-full of people with teaching experience. Few other states have the requirements that were included in this bill. Moreover, if there is dissatisfaction with Maryland’s board, the state Senate already has the authority not to confirm the governor’s appointees.
Mr. Hogan hit the nail on the head in calling the measure — along with two other bills he vetoed that would have made it easier for more school supervisors to join the union and made it harder to fire high-level education department employees — a “crude attempt” to “dilute the authority of the Board of Education.” Ever since Mr. Hogan, a Republican, has taken office, Democratic lawmakers have sought — unfortunately, sometimes successfully — to reshape education policy at the expense of the board and to the advantage of special interests. They need to be reminded that Maryland education has been well-served by having a strong board insulated from political influence.