Just days after a bill that would grant Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III complete oversight of the school system was introduced in the Senate, several delegates who represent the county said the timing and lack of clarity in the bill have prevented them from supporting it.
“The bill came too fast too late (in the session)” said Delegate Veronica Turner, D-Prince George’s. “There was no time really for us to conduct a study to understand what the county executive is trying to do.”
Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, D-Prince George’s, introduced a bill Monday that would alter the governing structure of the county’s school system and strip the Prince George’s County Board of Education of some power.
The bill as drafted would require the county executive to appoint the superintendent to a cabinet level position, as well as oversee the school system’s $1.7 billion budget.
Delegate Aisha Braveboy, D-Prince George’s, said there have been other executive takeovers of school systems across the country, but she is not convinced they have been as effective as they initially sought out to be.
“I think it’s difficult for us to say that this change (in structure) would yield better results given that the proposal hasn’t proven to be successful in other areas,” Braveboy said.
Both Turner and Braveboy agreed they wanted changes made to help improve Maryland’s second largest school system. When asked whether she believed the policy was the county executive’s attempt to seek more power, Turner said Baker’s “motives were legit.”
“He knows that there are problems and he was trying to fix them,” Turner said. “But his approach of trying to fix them may not have been the right approach.”
Others in the Prince George’s delegation, including Delegate Dereck Davis, believe the changes in power make sense conceptually.
“If the executive is willing to take this on and wants to be held accountable for it, I’m supportive of the idea,” said Davis, adding that the county has been consistently ranked at the bottom of the state in terms of student achievement during the nearly 19 years he has been in office.
Davis said he has talked to many of his colleagues on the House side, and that a majority of them are in favor of taking some type of action in the near future.
“It may not be precisely what the county executive introduces, but overall they are not satisfied with what’s currently going on.” Davis said. “They’re definitely supportive of seeing something happen that would alter the course that we have been on.”
The bill is still under some construction, but Baker’s spokesman, Scott L. Peterson, said in a statement that the county executive is “open to others’ ideas and willing to work collaboratively at finding the best solutions to move the county forward.”
“(Baker) looks forward to working with all stakeholders as the legislative process evolves,” Peterson said.
There will be a hearing in the Senate Friday, and both the House and Senate are scheduled to meet in a joint hearing Monday.
There are less than two weeks left in the legislative session.