The fate of the elected School Board bill goes down to the wire in Annapolis. For the latest updates, check out the comments to this article…
When a majority of delegates from a local jurisdiction sponsor legislation affecting their jurisdiction alone, the custom of the Maryland General Assembly is to approve it as a “local courtesy.” The bill proposing an elected Board of Education in Harford County should be a good example the Annapolis political tradition.
When the bill establishing a fully elected board was amended to create a partially elected, or blended school board, http://mlis.state.md.us/2008rs/billfile/SB0306.htm, it got the support of all three Harford County senators, unanimous approval in the full state senate and unanimous approval by a vote of the Harford County delegation – although Delegate Mary-Dulany James, a staunch opponent of elections, was not present for the delegation vote (remember this for later).
With no recorded votes in opposition to the partially elected Board of Education legislation and overwhelming public support for it, the bill should be well on its way to passage, courtesy of local courtesy. Why, then, are two members of the House of Delegates from outside of Harford County trying so hard to kill it?
Delegate Sheila Hixson (D-Montgomery), chairs of the Ways & Means Committee, which heard the bill on the House side, has set up a series of hurdles for the Harford delegation to clear before the bill can be considered for a vote. Although no one showed up to testify against HB 779, Hixson has outrageously demanded that potential opponents be tracked down to provide letters of support.
Then there’s Delegate Anne Kaiser (D-Montgomery), who chairs the House education subcommittee where the bill is currently bogged down. Kaiser wants the Harford County Board of Education to approve the bill; although no such approval was required from school boards in either Talbot or Queen Anne’s counties when their elected school board bills were before the same committee.
Both Kaiser and Hixson represent Montgomery County, where citizens enjoy the right to vote for their own school board. What possible reason could these two have for withholding local courtesy in the face of a unanimous vote from both the full senate and the Harford County delegation, not to mention the testimony they heard from the citizens of Harford County? The answer is they have no reason. Then who does?
Delegate Mary-Dulany James abstained from voting on the fully elected school board bill. She was absent from the vote on the amendments that made it the blended body of elected and appointed members.
So James is not on the record opposing elections, although she has vociferously opposed them in the past. Is she working with Hixson and Kaiser to undercut the rest if the Harford County delegation?
If so, she ought to at least admit it. If not, she can prove it by using her considerable influence in Annapolis to gain local courtesy for the county she was elected to represent.
If you would like to read our previous articles about the elected school board, please see the following links:
- State Senate Amends Legislation And Paves The Way For A Partially-Elected Board of Education In Harford County
- Ekey: Elected School Board Needed To Take Away Superintendant Haas’ “Rubber-Stamp”
- Support of an Elected School Board: A Letter to Mary-Dulany James
- The Elected School Board Stunt of the Week
- “A Republic, If You Can Keep It” – Part II
- “A Republic, If You Can Keep It” – Part I