Md. General Assembly OKs school overhaul plan

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker III.

The governor is expected to sign a bill passed by Maryland lawmakers that will make major changes in the way the Prince George's County's school system is run.

On Saturday the Maryland House of Delegates voted 81-45 to pass the bill, which will strip some power from the county's school board and give it to the county executive.

Prince George's County executive Rushern Baker had been pushing for increased authority for his office, and got some but not all of what he wanted.

The school system has been searching for a new superintendent, and Baker will now be able to pick who that person will be. The new rules say he can pick from a list of three candidates given to him by the governor and the state superintendent of schools.

There will also be four new members added to the current 10 on the Prince George's County school board. Three of the four will be appointed by Baker, and one will be appointed by the county council. Baker will also be able to pick the school board's chairman and vice-chairman, although the vice-chairman will be required to be an elected, not appointed, member.

Also, the bill requires a vote by two-thirds of the school board to overturn any decision the school superintendent makes.

Prince George's County has had trouble keeping superintendents in recent years, and some say that's due to difficulties the superintendents have had with the school board. Supporters of the new rules believe they will lead to a more stable superintendent situation.

"When you keep having turnover at the top, then that means that there's no program that gets to be seen through to the end," said state delegate Jolene Ivey (D - Cheverly). "We should have that will be in for the long term, and if you have someone in for the long term, they can make real, systemic change."

Supporters of Rushern Baker's plan says Prince George's County has not been improving school performance fast enough, and they say the county needs to do more to try to catch up to nearby districts like Montgomery and Howard.

But the plan had many critics as well. They accuse Baker of trying to ram a bill through the state house without giving the public and lawmakers enough time to study its impact. Some feel stripping power from the school board and giving it to Baker will not solve the problems in the school system.