Partially-Elected School Board Bill Defeated in Delegation

Sen. Ed Kasemeyer casts deciding vote against after supporting the bill last year.

UPDATED (1:00 p.m.)—A bill that would have created a partially-elected school board in Baltimore County was voted down by members of the county's Senate Delegation.

The eight senators from the county voted 4-4 to approve the bill, one vote short of what was needed for approval.

The deciding vote was Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, a Democrat who represents Catonsville and part of Howard County, who voted in favor of the bill last year. Howard County has an elected school board.

Kasemeyer's dissenting vote came after he voted for amendments to change the bill to a and a second amendment that staggered the elections of the seven board members.

The vote disappointed supporters who believed the bill would finally pass this year after six previous attempts.

"We're deeply disappointed," said Yara Cheikh, a member of the League of Women Voters Baltimore County and the parent of three children at Hampton Elementary School. "This is a vote down for democracy, accountability and transparency."

The League of Women Voters along with the Baltimore Count Parent Teacher Association supported the transition to a partially-elected school board.

Supporters including Cheikh, parents from Hillcrest Elementary School in Catonsville and members of the group Citizens for an Accountable Baltimore County School Board went to Annapolis Monday night for a last minute push. The group focused on Kasemeyer after rumors surfaced over the weekend that his support had waned.

Kasemeyer did not discuss his reasons for voting against the bill when the vote was taken Tuesday morning.

"We were hoping that listening to constituents would help Sen. Kasemeyer keep the same vote he made last year," Cheikh said, adding that in conversations, the senator told parents he was swayed by concerns voiced by Sen. Delores Kelley.

Kelley, a Randallstown Democrat, has been a vocal opponent of the bill for seven years.

Kasemeyer, in an interview Tuesday afternoon, acknowledged speaking with supporters of the bill and said Kelley's name came up but had no recollection of citing her reasons as his own for opposing the bill.

"I had mixed feelings about the bill," Kasemeyer said. "In the long-term I do support an elected school board bill."

Kasemeyer said he believes that county residents and education advocates are getting along better with new Superintendent S. Dallas Dance and the current board than with former Superintendent Joe Hairston and the previous board.

"I don't want to put [Dance] under the gun while they're just starting out," Kasemeyer said.

Dance took no position on the school board bill and in the past has noted that he's worked with both elected and appointed boards.

"It was really a matter of timing for me," Kasemeyer said. "Maybe next year or the year after, I'd be open to supporting an elected or partially elected school board."

The vote in the Senate effectively kills the bill and its cross-filed version in the House of Delegates.

Sen. Bobby Zirkin, an Owings Mills Democrat and lead sponsor of the Senate bill, said he was disappointed at the outcome.

"It's not disappointing for me personally," Zirkin said. "It's disappointing for me for the citizens. Once again they are being denied a fundamental right most of the rest of the state enjoys.

Zirkin vowed to bring the bill back for an eighth attempt next year.

"We'll be back at it," Zirkin said. "We'll keep trying. It's something that I think is important. It's a principal that I feel strongly that we need to keep pushing for."

Roll Call Vote on Baltimore County School Board Bill

Senator District/Party Yes No Joseph Getty 5, Republican X Norman Stone 6, Democrat X J.B. Jennings 7, Republican X Kathy Klausmeier 8, Democrat X Delores Kelley 10, Democrat X Bobby Zirkin 11, Democrat X Ed Kasemeyer 12, Democrat X Jim Brochin 42, Democrat X
Buck Harmon February 20, 2013 at 02:46 PM
There is a major flaw with the rating system...it has been corrupted by the dumbed down government approved curriculum, that has slighted education opportunities for many years....most of today's school board members, as well as our elected official public servants were subjected to the dumb down process as well... difficult to expect improvement when the folks calling the shots have been numbed and dumbed by the very system that they are perceived to be leading...
Karl February 20, 2013 at 03:01 PM
I hope no one is too dejected. We still have Lafferty's bill in the House. There are three times that killed the hybrid bill in the Senate. First, is the alleged time Kasemeyer says Dr. Dance needs "in office" before he's confronted with...Elected School Board Members!!! Next, is the time Kamenetz spent in Kasemeyer's and Getty's offices. This bill is not about education; it's about politics, power and patronage. Finally, is the time when Kasemeyer and Getty are not in Baltimore County. At the last hour, Senator Getty's poisin pill amendment changed the bill from 6 to 7 elected members. That didn't pass last year. Conceivably board members and councilmen in the same district might compete for the same office. From an incumbent's point of view, that's a bad thing. The same Governor, who makes political patronage appointments to the school board, also draws election district lines which cross jurisdictional boundaries. Hybrid district Delegates and Senators do not represent the minority portion of their districts. Kasemeyer and Getty don't fear Baltimore County voter retribution because their districts are predominantly in Howard and Carroll Counties. Incredibly, Getty's district won't include any of Baltimore County next year. There, that's too much time.
john sullivan February 20, 2013 at 07:23 PM
Cal Oren February 20, 2013 at 11:35 PM
So here we have a Howard Co. legislator telling the citizens of Baltimore Co. that we do not have the right to vote on how 52% of our county budget is spent! That's right - the school budget is actually greater than the rest of the entire Baltimore County budget, and it is currently managed by a 100% non-elect, non-accountable school board. If it came to a vote in the State Senate, Sen. Kasemeyer would undoubtedly do away with an elected Baltimore Co. Council as well, because a Council appointed by a governor of his party would no doubt be more to his liking. Back in 1776, we went to war over this issue.
john sullivan February 20, 2013 at 11:45 PM
FIFI ALSO IN KING kamenetz's POCKET ?????
FIFA February 20, 2013 at 11:52 PM
Sorry john s., not me. I didn't vote for KK. Met him once, he was too full of himself, don't like him at all. Voted for Joe and then the Republican (please don't tell anybody I did that). I just don't like elected school boards. The candidates will not be vetted and will have their own crazy agendas. We will get idiots on the Board through our own stupidity or by not paying attention. I do want County Council approval of all Board members though by at least a five vote majority. Please post the screen name correctly, just a personal thing I have.
john sullivan February 21, 2013 at 01:24 AM
john sullivan February 21, 2013 at 01:27 AM
john sullivan February 21, 2013 at 01:28 AM
M. O'HARE WELL SAID !!!!!!!!!
FIFA February 21, 2013 at 01:36 AM
That's where we disagree, the problem was with the Superintendent, a very poor hire. Sadly, any Board could have made that mistake. The Superintendent runs the schools, not the Board.
FIFA February 21, 2013 at 01:36 AM
PS, break that caps lock key please.
Buzz Beeler February 21, 2013 at 02:56 AM
John, I meant that facetiously. If you want to make change you have to get out the vote. I had lunch today with some former teachers and to hear their stories on entitlements was incredible. Take a good look at your cable bill and see the breakdown of the cost and you know where that money goes? One of the people talked about his son who installed these systems who quit because he could not stand to deal with the issues of free stuff any more especially while people where getting high as he did his job. You see the less we know what goes on behind closed doors the more timid and uninformed we become.
Ed February 21, 2013 at 03:35 AM
As someone who grew up in Baltimore County but now lives in Carroll County (hence I don't have a dog in the fight), can I offer some objective comments? People on both side of this issue have said some things that I find, um, a little off, but perhaps I can put this in the context of the 30-plus year history of having a fully elected school board in Carroll. Let me also offer the caveat that what happens in Carroll might not work out the same in Baltimore County and might not work the same in the county executive form of government as opposed to the commissioner form of government. First of all, I don't think BOE candidates are any less qualified than appointed board members or other electeds. I think more than a few folks would argue that the current BoE in Carroll is probably more thoughtful than our current commissioners. Second, by most state measurements, Howard, Montgomery, Carroll and Frederick are almost always in the top 5 in the state based on the standardized testing. While it is true that Howard and Montgomery have very high per-pupil spending rates, the same cannot be said for Carroll and Frederick. The method of selecting BoE members is less important to the outcomes than some combination of money, parental involvement, family expectations and school management. Just look at the highest performing districts (in general) in Baltimore County and you will generally find a correlation with income, parental involvement and educational expectations. --more--
Ed February 21, 2013 at 03:51 AM
Third, Carroll BoE is not elected by districts. (Of course, our commissioners were not elected by district until one of our genius state delegates thought we would be better off with 5 commissioners elected by district than 3 at large.) I'm not sure Baltimore County should hang its hat on district BoE elections, but perhaps that might be needed to assure minority representation. (I grew up in Baltimore County back when the council members represented districts but were elected on a county-wide basis, and I'm pretty sure Dr. Ben Carson couldn't have won a council seat in Baltimore County under that system. Ironically, one of Carroll's first black elected officials was Richard Dixon, who went on to represent Carroll in the House of Delegates and later became state treasurer. Of course, he was a very conservative democrat -- a stockbroker --so he was very electable in Carroll back in the 70s and 80s. A democrat -- even a conservative one -- couldn't even be a dog catcher in Carroll these days.) Fourth, Carroll's BoE elections are very apolitical. First and foremost, they are non-partisan. While various candidates certainly have had different points of view over the years, the elections have usually not been exceedingly contentious. Fifth, while MSDE does indeed have a good bit of control over curriculum, local boards have control over specifics, such as suitable texts and other details.--more--
Buzz Beeler February 21, 2013 at 04:00 AM
Ed over the years the cost of education has risen 277% and take a look at the cost of college. For all those billions where are we now? This is from the NAACP: http://naacp.3cdn.net/e5524b7d7cf40a3578_2rm6bn7vr.pdf http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/15/cost-of-college-degree-increase-12-fold-1120-percent-bloomberg_n_1783700.html Many of these loans go unpaid and take a look at the ranking of the U.S. in the world of education. Talk to any teacher and listen to them tell you the reality of our system. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/07/us-falls-in-world-education-rankings_n_793185.html If you don't like these links there are many others that tell the same story. The parents and teachers should have a voice in the system. A government for the people. The people being us and our children, not some bureaucrat.
Steve February 21, 2013 at 04:02 AM
"Many of these loans go unpaid..." Link? Do you have any kids in the system Beeker or is this part of your agenda?
Ed February 21, 2013 at 04:07 AM
In Carroll, for example, our schools still teach that abstainence is the preferred method of birth control and avoiding STDs, something not all counties teach. That also shows that in Carroll's case, the elected school board in general is in keeping with the conservative views of the county. Six, in Carroll, anyway, the BoE is generally not seen as a stepping stone to higher office. After about 30 years of boards that I am familiar with, I can only recall 3 moving up to higher office -- the aforementioned Richard Dixon, Jeff Griffith, a relatively liberal democrat who later became a county commissioner, and Susan Krebs, a moderately conservative Republican who now serves in the House of Delegates. I may have missed a few, but it is not many. (By the way, our school board has five elected members and a non-voting student member.) A few other quick points. Remember that in Maryland, NO BoE (regardless of selection method) has the power to tax. As we see in Carroll, there is a lot of given and take between the commissioners and BoE. Carroll has hired several very good superintendents in recent years (in my opinion) but also has a disastrous hire about 12 or 13 years ago (was found to have been involved sexually with a minor), so an elected BoE does not guarantee there won't be screw ups. --more--
Ed February 21, 2013 at 04:20 AM
Because our BoE is not elected geographically, there is less chance of them worrying about one school in particular, but just like an appointed board, they can be swayed by local elected officials. Several years ago, there was an outcry in the northeast corner of Carroll to build a new high school because the existing school was significantly overcrowded. This was while the building boom was still on. Local electeds, including then county commissioners and a couple of mayors (including one that is now a commissioner) DEMANDED a new high school immediately. The school board caved, the school was built, the economy tanked and we are actually LOSING student population. We have over capacity, but probably not enough to close any large school (such as a high school) without an expensive redistricting and massive transportation expenses. Interestingly NONE of the school board members that approved building that school lived in that part of the county, they were just trying to do what the population wanted. The population cost us a heck of a lot of money with that move. Any type of BoE depends on school staff for guidance and research, but a good board will work closely with school staff to make sure they understand the context of the needs of the greater community along with the needs of the school system when suggesting programs and items for discussion and vote. --more--
Ed February 21, 2013 at 04:22 AM
I know this has been rambling but I hope it provides some background to make an educated decision about the best way to pick a BoE, and more important to expect that no matter HOW the BoE is selected, they will make mistakes and not everyone will agree with them all of the time. Such is our system (still the best in the world, in my humble opinion).
Ed February 21, 2013 at 04:29 AM
Buzz, was your post disagreeing with anything I wrote? Cause it doesn't seem to address my comments.
Buck Harmon February 21, 2013 at 05:06 AM
Well done Ed..! Thanks for sharing some very detailed information...interesting comparisons..
Karl February 21, 2013 at 05:12 AM
I'm sorry. Dixon was not a conservative. He ran for State Treasurer without the support of the NAACP. According to his obituary in the Washington Post, "Confident and blunt-spoken, Mr. Dixon resigned as treasurer in 2002 because of poor health and amid controversy over his leadership of the state retirement and pension system. His authoritarian style brought criticism from some of his fellow pension trustees. Mr. Dixon was a persistent advocate of allocating a high percentage of the state’s pension money to the stock market. For several years, the strategy paid off, but the fund’s performance plunged during the high-tech bust of 2000."
Buzz Beeler February 21, 2013 at 05:21 AM
Ed I guess I misunderstood your stance. As Buck stated it was very detailed and offered a variety of issues. From my prospective I don't trust the government and I was a cop for 39 years. What ever system is in place mistakes will be made and I think that the choice should be left up to the parents and voters. There are so many issues at the local, state and federal level that are troubling and in my opinion the direction of the county, state and nation are not headed in the right direction. Our ranking in the world is at its lowest point during my lifetime. I guess the difference is I have seen the government at work up close and personal and it is not pretty.
Karl February 21, 2013 at 01:40 PM
I think someone already said this; but I'm going to say it again. I worked as a broadcast journalist in the 50s and 60s when Baltimore County Councilmen had to live in each district. However, they were elected by a county-wide vote. Dundalk and Essex controlled the elections and the Councilmen in every District. Not nice.
Buck Harmon February 21, 2013 at 02:02 PM
Our public education systems are stuck in a mold of dumb down...government approval of the process that is used...regardless of who or how it's run will maintain in this apathetic state of dumbness until the mold is broken...new idea's, new approach to education is what is needed....it's a curriculum thing in the long run..
Buck Harmon February 21, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Yea...Good old Haven Shoemaker,(Commissioner Shoemaker)..then Mayor Shoemaker actually staked his career on the immediate need for Manchester Valley High School....goes to show you how it really happens when society has been apathetically dumbed...
Buzz Beeler February 21, 2013 at 02:45 PM
Buck, accountability; there is none. In NY the students are allowed to curse at the teachers while in class and they will not take any action claiming it will disrupt the child's learning experience. I have several friends that are county teachers and the experiences they tell are almost beyond comprehension. Talk to any business CEO or manager and they will tell you what's out there. Our college grads are ill prepared for the business world and this was reflected in our police department years ago. A shift sergeant once told me he gave up on reading reports because the grammar was so bad he couldn't understand it. Now they want to do away with cursive when kid's can't even read or write as complete sentence.
Cal Oren February 21, 2013 at 02:56 PM
If your reasoning is valid, it would certainly be even more relevant at all levels of government. Wouldn't it be nice if ALL of our legislators were "above politics" and would never use their positions as "stepping stones to further their political careers?" We tried that once - King George III was appointing the officials at the time. Politics can be messy and contradictory and non-progressive, but taxation without representation is still tyranny!
Buzz Beeler February 21, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Karl, I know one gentleman who lost his race for council based on that formula. Sounds crazy to run county wide when most people in their home district don't know the name of their own councilman or woman. Too run county wide would be like flipping a coin
astheworldturns March 06, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Thanks Senator Brochin for your vote. We will keep re-electing you.


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