Mar 29, 2013 0
The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee heard testimony Friday on a proposal to overhaul the Prince George’s County school system.
The committee heard testimony on House Bill 1107, which would create a task force to evaluate best practices for the county’s school board operations. It also heard the more controversial Senate Bill 1071, which would give County Executive Rushern L. Baker increased power to overhaul the struggling school system.
The Senate bill, called the “Academic Revitalization and Management Effectiveness Initiative,” would give the county executive power to appoint school board members and superintendent but keep the budget and salaries within the responsibilities of the school board.
The school system is searching for a new superintendent and has seen the position change hands five time in the last 10 years.
The Senate bill faces opposition from many labor organizations as well as the Prince George’s County Board of Education and some teachers and parents. Opponents testified the bill lacks checks and balances, gives the county executive too much power, was poorly researched and should not be pushed through with so little time left in the legislative session.
“Our county dynamics are unique for a variety of reasons and our school system reflects the same,” said Verjeana Jacobs, chair of Prince George’s County Board of Education. “These fundamental changes to our school system are much too important to do in such a short amount of time.”
Baker testified similar action has been taken in New York City and Washington, D.C., and that his urgency was due to the superintendent position vacancy.
“I believe we need to make some changes in the way we set up the structure,” Baker said “Clearly something needs to be done in Prince George’s county in terms of our education system.”
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, sat in on the hearing.
“Our citizenry is very frustrated with our school system,” Miller said afterward, citing what he sees as a lack of cooperation and slow progress.
Miller said he thought the bill would be amended to reflect what the witnesses said in the hearing.
Little opposition was given for the House bill.
Prince George’s County delegation members from both chambers will host a joint public hearing on the bill Monday night beginning at 5 p.m. in the Joint Hearing Room in the Department of Legislative Services.