Baltimore County Elected School Board Bill Dies

With 30 minutes to go, Baltimore County delegates trade votes on slots for school board bill, but time ran out this session on an partially elected school board.

Baltimore County took a crucial step toward a partially-elected school board after the House Ways and Means Committee voted Monday to pass an amended school board bill—despite County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's opposition. 

The bill, which calls for establishing a six elected- and five-appointed member board, passed out of the committee with about 30 minutes left before the midnight deadline.

But the measure ran out of time and was not voted on by the full General Assembly just minutes before the deadline expired. 

Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a sponsor of the bill in the Senate, criticized Kamenetz for his efforts to thwart the move to an elected school board.

"He wasted a lot of people's time trying to kill this bill," said Zirkin. "When Dutch (Ruppersberger) and Jim Smith were here working together meant working in concert with your county executive. This session we were working to defend ourselves against our own county executive."

"It was a complete loser of a session for Baltimore County," said Zirkin, who vowed to make this the first bill he introduces in the next session.

"This isn't over," said Zirkin. "This isn't going away."

Legislators in the House and Senate started holding up bills Kamenetz wanted passed as retribution for his work against the school board bill.

In the House, Del. John Olszewski Jr. tried to put a good face on the events.

"It's gone further than it's ever gone before," said Olszewski. "We made more progress on this than we ever made before. People were really engaged in this and that's healthy."

Several legislators said the bill was scheduled to come up next for a vote just as the clock struck midnight and the session expired. The bill languished for three days in the House Ways and Means Committee waiting for a vote to concur with amendments made in the Senate.

The bill finally began to move after county delegates threatened to vote against a bill that would expand slots to a sixth location in Prince George's County and legalize table games.

Del. Sheila Hixson, a Montgomery County Democrat and committee chairwoman, apologized to her colleagues late Monday night. She said that the committee's policy to hold local bills opposed by a county executive was being overridden.

"There are political considerations," Hixson told the committee.

House Speaker Michael Busch acknowledge the trade but declined to characterize it as an ultimatum.

"The delegation wanted this bill and the delegation had something to trade," said Del. Jon Cardin, a Baltimore County delegate who serves on the committee. "It's not often that the delegation is united but we showed that when we are united we have tremendous power."

Roxane April 10, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Of course, politicians in Annapolis know what's best for those of us everywhere in Maryland. The school board issue is a LOCAL issue. I
JDStuts April 10, 2012 at 03:53 PM
The Baltimore County representatives to the Maryland House and Senate are elected by citizens of the Baltimore County legislative districts to represent them. By title, the county "executive" is to execute the day to day operations of the county. The elected legislative leaders in response to their constituents shape State policy as it relates to Baltimore County, thus the need for a bill to convert the county to an elected school board. To your example, the child like behavior is coming from Kamenetz. The citizens and their representatives decided it was time to convert to an elected board. KK stamped his foot and said, "No, I don't want to follow your rules, I want to do it my way." What you just witnessed was a naked power play and corruption of the democratic process.
Lexa Newman April 10, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I wonder how Joe Bartenfelder would have handled this one? I've never been a staunch supporter of Mr. Kamenetz, and after this, I can't imagine that he is someone who stands in alignment with my views and concerns. He won't be getting my vote for anything else he decides to run for.
Peace and Love April 10, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Thank you for your responses. JDStuts, I'm just not sure how you can know that the elected officials and citizens decided it was time. I certainly never decided it was time, and I am a county citizen with children in our schools. I was never asked by anyone. Our schools are so well run, I can't imagine having to fight over who gets to change things next. What a nightmare that will be. Yet another election and more politics. I thought we already elected officials who appointed these board members. It's a shame to me that when a few vocal citizens, who also have their egos in the way, go running and crying to a few elected officials, that the officials believe them without even asking if everyone in the county agrees. Why don't they also give the school board taxing authority since that works so well everywhere? More importantly, why doesn't anyone, including our elected officials, ask the parents what they want rather than rushing to fix something that's not broken? We might just need a few new parts rather than scrapping the whole thing.... I certainly would treat my car that way. Rather than just buy a new one because it runs a little rough, I would prefer to spend less and just go to the mechanic. And, when it comes to crying, it is ALWAYS Bobby. All he does is cater to the loudest audience so he can get re-elected and let his EGO shine!!! No real backbone unfortunately...but then again, people eat it up.
Mari April 10, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Peace and Love, I'm curious, do your children go to schools with air conditioning? I also have a child in the system and her school was air conditioned the year she started but there are many other schools that are not. While the system seems to be well-run, there is always room for improvement. This would not have been an entirely elected school board; it would have been a combination and people who are not "connected" to the governor and county executive would have been able to run for a position on the board. Why shouldn't the citizens have the right to directly elect the school board? It's not like our current governor listens to the average citizen.
onewhoknows2 April 10, 2012 at 04:42 PM
An elected or hybrid school board WAS included in Joe Bartenfelder's campaign stand. He would have been fighting FOR the elected school board instead of trying to defeat it as KK did. No doubt about it!! People got what they voted for with KK! A friend to education, parents and the citizens of this county?? I think not.
Lexa Newman April 10, 2012 at 04:50 PM
I know, I campaigned for him. I just put that out there kind of to remind people that there are other options and that we need to think hard before electing someone to office. "Does this person represent MY cares and concerns", not just "does this guy have the slickest commercials"
Paul Amirault April 10, 2012 at 04:53 PM
Just a simple question, albeit a seriouse one, forgetting the school board issue for a second, what would you (all posters) change if you were on the Board? What is wrong with Baltimore County Public Schools that a change in how a Board is determined would affect the school system? Just askin'.
Paul Amirault April 10, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Randy, some may say I have less than half a brain. But here goes. The rationale you suggest would lead to the following, which is why not elect everything? Liquor Board, Planning Board, Rec & Parks Board, etc., let them all be elected. One might say that is absurd, but the logic follows. My argument against is the following; the vetting process that would take place for a School Board would essentially be non-existent. What kind of candidates would run? The anti-immigrant activist, the pro-life activist that wants our schools to teach abstinence only, the cut cut cut conservative who wants to gut education, the Christian that wants creationism in the school, the NEA rep who wants more pay for teachers, pick your ideological stand and it will show up. Then go ahead and put it at the bottom of the ballot, see how many bother to vote. Some will say, you had a chance to vote, you didn't, your problem. I say, that will become our children's problems. Dice roll, comes up craps I'm afraid.
JDStuts April 10, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Peace and Love, My "vocal-ness" in this issue was probably typical. After watching the school board's mismanagement of its budget and curriculum I sent an email to each of my representatives and the county exec stating it was my belief the time for local oversight of the board had arrived. At present a governor's appointments have undue influence on local issues and local taxpayer dollars pour into an agency that does not contain one person responsive to the electorate. Not only could a school board member ignore your inquiries, they could write go to hell on the back of a 100 bill and be perfectly secure in their position. That email solicited a response from each one in which to paraphrase, they were looking at the issue. To my follow up a few weeks later all responded they were leaning toward an altered school board except Kamenetz. Obviously more than my email swayed their decision. The lifeblood of small region local politics isn't money but communication with your constituents. The council and assembly members understood that and responded in kind. Kamenetz, whose own admitted fault is an oversized ego and inability to admit fallibility did not. The taxing authority is a straw man. Many school boards are authorized only to spend their legislated budget. Violation of this tenant equals fraud and can result in criminal prosecution. Again, this is a sad day for democratic rule.
JDStuts April 10, 2012 at 05:14 PM
His smear job of Joe remains an ugly moment in the history of the office of the county executive. No matter how his tenure ends the history of it will begin with that story and the confrontation on WYPR.
JDStuts April 10, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Revamp the office of curriculum. Open the facility RFP process to public scrutiny. Mandate superintendent searches be open to the public with no closed door sessions. Downsize board of education staffing and transition savings to classroom positions. The current board spends local tax dollars with no oversight from those citizens. They selected a new superintendent who has nearly no experience through a secretive process despite having been warned due to numerous p.r. mishaps to keep parents informed of the search. They spent money on complex grading system, forced its implementation into the system and then gave the rights to a retiring employee to personally profit. This is what happens with unchecked power.
Paul Amirault April 10, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Randy, the Board right now is 100% appointed. So, I don't understand your question. The proposed legislation would make it 6 elected and 5 appointed.
Paul Amirault April 10, 2012 at 06:41 PM
JD, fair points. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't the unchecked power of the Board of Education, thus the Superintendent, encased in the Charter or other laws? Aren't most of these issues with the superintendents? The grading system and personal profiting clearly were.
Randy Moroni April 10, 2012 at 06:54 PM
LOL! Clearly I got that completely upside down. Would really have helped if the articles covered the facts as much as they cover the political drama. Sorry for the confusion.
Wildcat68 April 10, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Peace and Love works for the County Executive for anyone's information. Stop spending our tax dollars defending your boss. By the way, I am a resident of Owings Mills and have seen Senator Zirkin at my kids' schools every year. I don't remember ever seeing Mr. Kamenetz. Except when he was running for office. I hope Mr. Zirkin runs against Mr. Kamenetz. Kamenetz is acting shamefully.
Wildcat68 April 10, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Again, Peace and Love. Stop blogging on the tax payer dime. And stop insulting everyone about this issue. Parents of children in the schools are the ones who want this change. Not the politicians. We want it because the school board is tone deaf to our concerns. Just like your boss Kevin Kamenetz. I voted for Joe Bartenfelder because I know Kevin and I would have voted for anyone but that lying, egomaniac.
Wildcat68 April 10, 2012 at 07:15 PM
We should have elected Joe Bartenfelder.
Bart April 10, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Bart April 10, 2012 at 07:32 PM
My councilperson lets me know that since he and some others voted against KK on a bill, the County Executive's office will not communicate with them, therefore holding back information that the citizens need. Way to go Kevin. How long will you stomp and hold your breath?
Buzz Beeler April 10, 2012 at 07:46 PM
The truth on the AP test scores and not the spin. The U.S. ranks 25th in the world in Math. And then there is this. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/07/us-falls-in-world-education-rankings_n_793185.html Or if your prefer the fox guarding the hen house. http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-02-10/news/bs-ed-hairston-letter-20110210_1_hairston-wasteful-spending-bid There is another link and $7 million that was wasted but I'll be kind and let that one slide.
Buzz Beeler April 10, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Bart, the arrogance of power. Come to Edgemere on 4/16 at 7 pm. He's the guest speaker. Be on on time because he might become a little tattered by those in attendance. I'll post as notice of the event.
the warnock April 10, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Isn't it great. The ruler of the county keeps his unchecked powers to do what he wants, when he wants and to whom he wants
Peace and Love Part 2 April 11, 2012 at 04:00 AM
By the way 'Peace and Love'. I know who you are. Hint. I work for the County too. And if you continue to use your position at the County to attack legislators from the County, the citizens, or anyone else using tax payer dollars, I will send a letter to ethics. Understood? And if I find out you have been directed from the folks upstairs to do this while being paid by County citizens, they will be in the ethics letter too. Got it?
Terrie April 15, 2012 at 03:33 PM
It is a serious question. I work with a group of Moms struggling to compensate for the outdated and inadequate Special Education services provided to students with Autism Disorders in Baltimore County Public School . My son is now in the 10th grade --- and according to his school he is doing very well – with his 5th grade reading comprehension level. It was only after writing to a member of the BOE who had also taken issue with a report on the achievement gap in the reading abilities of high school students with and without disabilities that I was granted an audience with someone at the department of special ed. This does not necessarily translate into an actual intervention but it is a glimmer of hope and that is something special at the high school level. For the record, I am not an absent parent. In my experience, and common among my peers, schools prefer parents not be involved. Even with the current initiatives to eradicate this divisive climate, IEP teams can only offer services and supports that actually exist. That takes us back to the BOE and budgeting.
Roxane April 15, 2012 at 04:51 PM
To Terrie Wolf. A disability does not go away. Perhaps the best your child will be able to do is read on a level below his chronological age. Special ed services cannot make the disability go away. I believe that the money for SE services is Federal money which comes in to local jurisdictions under the ADA law.
Buck Harmon April 15, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I'd like to see the county curriculum re focus on some trade and hand skill programs. Sometimes students that are slower readers have great gifts to develop as part of their education experience.
Baltimore County Parent April 16, 2012 at 03:52 AM
Peace and Love - There isn't a single school board in the state of Maryland that has taxing authority. This includes the 18 that are all elected and the two that are hybrid boards. This argument is a red herring.
FactChecker April 21, 2012 at 03:26 AM
According to her prior posts, Lexa voted for Joe Bartenfelder and is upset that he lost the election.
FactChecker April 21, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Kamenetz has consistently stated that he is opposed to an elected school board, including during his campaign.


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