Baker’s Path to Schools Takeover Rocky

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker’s proposal to take over the Prince George’s County school system has been met with protest and changes as it fights to become reality.

Baker’s proposal would include adding the next superintendent, chosen to replace Interim Dr. Alvin L. Crawley, to Baker’s cabinet. The county executive would also take control of the school system’s $1.7 billion budget.

However, the Maryland Senate has introduced a modified bill that would split the control between Baker and the school board. Under this measure, the Board of Education would handle the budget, while Baker would choose the next superintendent.

The bill is fighting time as the Maryland General Assembly 2013 session is scheduled to conclude April 8.

However, everyone has not met Baker’s proposal with support.

Many teacher associations and unions are standing up against Baker’s proposal to take over the school system. Some of them include: Prince George’s County Educators’ Association, ACE/AFSCME, Local 2250, AFL-CIO and Service Employees Local 400 P.G.

“As many of you know, we have the heaviest load, yet we receive the least amount of support. The County Executive’s proposal falls short and fails to address the core issues facing our community.

The proposal reduces public oversight of schools and voids the rights of our parents, students and labor unions. That is why we must stick together to defeat the proposed amendments to House Bill 1107,” reads an e-mail to employees from Prince George’s County Public Schools.

In a Board of Education meeting on March 21, members of the school system did not respond favorably to Baker’s plan to limit their power.

“We see it as a blatant political grab and will constantly work in opposition. This proposal is undemocratic and raises real questions about civil rights issues, it undercuts the voice of the public,” said a statement by Citizens for an Elected Board.

The Board of Education released a statement March 22 comparing Baker’s proposal to the District’s school takeover by former Mayor Adrian Fenty.

In 2007, former Mayor Fenty also reduced the school board’s responsibilities when he took over D.C. schools and appointed former Chancellor Michelle Rhee. His decision was not only a major source of protest, but also showed minimal improvements to the District’s school system.

“This is a bad bill that is being pushed through the legislature under the guise of education reform and without the benefit of a public hearing. The public’s voice will not be heard,” said the statement from the Board of Education.

“If Baker truly wants to improve education in Prince George’s County, he should start by helping to promote more parental engagement. He should also help by finding funds to attract and retain our teachers.”

On March 26, Baker joined over 16,000 Prince George’s County residents and defended his proposal in a telephone town hall meeting. “Clearly there is a crisis in our school system. Our schools continue to be ranked at the bottom, we can’t keep a superintendent for more than a few years and our infrastructure is crumbling before our eyes,” he said.

“We can accept the status quo and make no measurable changes, or we can change the way our schools operate by passing this important piece of legislation,” Baker said.