Four years after passing school overhaul law, second thoughts in Prince George’s

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Dr. Eubanks, Dr. Maxwell, and County Executive Rushern L. Baker III

Two state lawmakers from Prince George’s County are trying to scale back or eliminate many of the school system’s changes that County Executive Rushern L. Baker III championed early in his administration.
In response to public concern over allegations of abuse involving school staff and volunteers, Del. Carolyn J. B. Howard (D) and Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D) want to repeal major portions of the 2013 state law that was intended to counteract years of school board dysfunction and ensure accountability.
The law turned the Prince George’s Board of Education from a fully elected board into a hybrid of appointed and elected members and granted Baker (D) broad powers to choose the schools chief executive, Kevin Maxwell, who, in turn, had sweeping power to enact changes.
Under Maxwell, test scores and graduation rates have begun to inch up. But the arrest of a one-time school aide on child-porn charges and news that the federal government was taking steps to rescind $6.4 million in Head Start funds have triggered a wave of outrage at how the school system is being run.

The bills Muse and Howard are preparing for the legislative session that begins in January would return the Board of Education to its previous configuration, repeal many of the county executive’s appointment powers and strip the schools chief executive of authority on such decisions as closing schools.

“Nothing has really changed enough to justify this becoming the permanent structure for our school system,” Muse, a frequent critic of Baker’s who voted against the 2013 legislation, said in a statement.

“The citizens did not ask for this — the legislature pushed it through.”

The bills face an uphill battle in Annapolis. The 2013 measure passed with strong support in both chambers, as well as from Democratic leaders, after lawmakers who were concerned about giving Baker too much power attached amendments limiting his control of the school system’s budget.

Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Prince George’s) is pushing back on calls to repeal that legislation. Instead, she is proposing a bill that would create a task force to study and hold public hearings about the effects the 2013 changes have had on students.

 The task force’s findings would coincide with a report on the same topic that the 2013 law says the school system is required to produce by next December.

“I think that we should refrain from making quick, political decisions during the session,” said Valentino-Smith. “We need an in-depth analysis of the best practices of school systems and recommendations on how to make improvements.”

Baker’s spokesman, Barry Hudson, said the school board’s structure “is not the issue.”

“The challenges that the school system faces or had faced are things that needed to be corrected over time,” Hudson said.

“Over the last three to four years, all the things the bill was designed to do, it has done . . . Outcomes are certainly moving in the right direction.”

Public concern about school leadership has focused on the decision to shut some schools and on allegations that surfaced in February, when investigators charged one-time school aide Deonte Carraway with producing child pornography that involved students at a county school.

 Months later, the federal government threatened to rescind a $6.4 million grant for the system’s Head Start program, citing allegations of inappropriate punishments meted out by teachers, insufficient supervision of children and a lack of responsiveness when those issues were raised.

Doris Reed, executive director of the union representing Prince George’s school administrators, said the labor group supported Baker’s initial push to have more control over how schools are run. But what came out of Annapolis, she added, was not what the union expected.

Reed said she plans to testify in Annapolis when Howard and Muse’s bill come up for debate, focusing on people whom Maxwell has fired and on problems she says have persisted, including transparency and unfair discipline against employees.

“A study is not going to do anything,” Reed said. “Studies drag on forever. Meanwhile, people are being fired and the kids are losing out.”

via Washington Post 

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Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D) of Prince Georges County, who is also a pastor, raised concerns about HB1107. He wants to repeal major portions of the 2013 state law that was intended to counteract years of school board dysfunction and ensure accountability. The law turned the Prince George’s Board of Education from a fully elected board into a hybrid of appointed and elected members and granted Baker (D) broad powers to choose the schools chief executive, Kevin Maxwell, who, in turn, had sweeping power to enact changes.

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