ICYMI – these were the remarks I delivered at tonight’s County Council meeting regarding the prospect of an elected Wicomico County Board of Education. You might catch this on PAC-14 over the next week or so, but trust me: it’s best delivered here.
To the members of County Council and those assembled here for this meeting, good evening.
I’m speaking to you on a subject that, had the original plan been taken to completion, would be on its way to a decision by the voters of Wicomico County. But a funny thing happened on the way to that forum – there was some double dealing perpetrated in Annapolis by opponents of a common-sense proposal to allow we, the citizens of Wicomico County, to decide whether to adopt an elected school board or not.
Instead, they gummed up the works by insisting other questions such as whether we wanted to maintain an appointed school board be included. As it was, the answer would have been obvious – if voters wanted an appointed school board they would simply vote “no” to the question presented. To me, this was simply an attempt at obfuscation dreamed up by opponents who want to maintain the status quo for political purposes. It’s those opponents who I came up here to address this evening.
One thing that I intentionally left out of my brief introduction is that I’m a member of the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee. As part of that body, we have from time to time addressed the issue of vetting and suggesting those we feel are deserving to be on the Wicomico County Board of Education. Over the summer I helped fill two of the seven positions on that board as we forwarded the names of Michelle Wright and Carolyn Elmore to the governor’s office – quite honestly we were surprised the governor agreed given both our previous track record of having the names we forwarded ignored by governors of both parties and the hints dropped to us by the majority party that they wanted a say in selecting what had traditionally been Republican seats on the BOE.
In short, it’s a system which has been perverted to political ends and because of that may not be best for the children being educated. That’s why most Maryland counties have adopted an elected school board.
So I ask the opponents of adopting an elected school board: are you afraid of competing in the market of ideas and allowing the voice of the public to be heard? In looking at our local election results over the last quarter-century, only one time has the wish of Wicomico County been granted for the office of the state’s chief executive – that was Bob Ehrlich in 2002. In every other case since 1986 the person responsible for selecting our school board through his Secretary of Appointments was rejected by local voters. That meant we may not have had the school board we desired.
I believe the concerns of the opponents in regard to being shut out of the process are unfounded, since the electoral model envisioned reflects the makeup of the County Council with one important difference – the elections would be nonpartisan. Certainly Republicans and Democrats will have their slates, but those who don’t participate in party politics will be able to provide independent thought on the Board of Education’s makeup.
Furthermore, the horse has already left the barn – County Council has now twice passed a resolution asking the General Assembly to allow voters their say in the 2012 election. Passing that measure next year would simply begin the process of negotiations in how best to adopt the recommendation, with the first elections likely occurring in 2014. We have plenty of time to get it right.
So why should we continue with an approach rejected by the vast majority of counties in the state? I call on opponents to yield to the wishes of the County Council majority – let’s have a simple up-or-down vote on a single question – whether we should have an elected school board. It’s a decision long overdue.
I’ll have more on this tomorrow, as well as my impressions of the budget meeting held at Parkside High School which I popped in upon.