Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Five Years and No Fix

This year marks five years of the Anne Arundel County School Board Nominating Commission, something that we have covered at length here on Red Maryland.


The brainchild of disgraced former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, the School Board Nominating Commission nominates candidates for the Anne Arundel County Board of Education. The eventual Board Members are selected by the Governor. The Commission is made up mainly of appointees of the Governor, along with an appointee of the County Executive and appointees from various civic and business groups across the county. Sadly, the Commission processed replaced the Convention process, which allowed for a greater range of public participation. 

Over the five years of the Commission's existence, we have noted various follies of the Commission. Their inability to understand their mandate, their inability to control the process, changing the rules midstreamabsentee members, and general incompetence have been documented here.

Tomorrow, the Commission will hold the first of two public hearings this week to vet the candidates to be selected by the Commission on June 5th, and then passed along to the Governor. Of course, you haven't heard anything about that. The Commission website tells you only that there are meetings and that only two candidates filed for the process, both incumbents.

What made me reminisce somewhat about this process is that five years ago we learned how much of a Democratic disaster this process was going to be. One of the first nominees sent forth (and selected over a much more qualified applicant) by the Commission, and eventually selected by the Governor and retained by the voters, was Teresa Milio Birge. Birge was, at the time of her appointment, an unregistered Democratic lobbyist, something that was reported on and confirmed by Ms. Birge here on Red Maryland (and generally ignored elsewhere). Birge eventually stopped being an unregistered Democratic lobbyist (at least according to her resume) and is now a paid O'Malley apparatchik in the Department of Budget and Management. 

Since she is the only applicant in District 32, Birge will be selected by the Commission, reappointed by the Governor, and likely re-elected by the voters, since voters only get a "yes" or "no" choice in an election to retain the nominees and in 2008, 2010, and 2012 no candidate got fewer than 73% of the "yes" votes. 

When Leopold championed this idea, Leopold said "For the first time in Anne Arundel County, the public has the chance to provide direct input into the selection of school board members." Yet we now find ourselves in a situation where candidates are nominated virtually unopposed, the Commission is veiled in a cloak of near secrecy, and candidates are re-elected in elections where the candidates aren't even discussed, to say nothing of their positions on important educational issues. Yet, over 50% of Anne Arundel County's operating budget is dedicated to Education funding.

I ask the same question now that I asked five years ago; is this any way to select a school board?

Five years into the Anne Arundel County School Board Nomination Commission process, the process is a complete and catastrophic failure for taxpayers and parents, providing successes only for Democratic politicians and education insiders who want to continue their stranglehold on the reins of power without any input from outsiders. We are long past the time where it is necessary and proper to repeal this ridiculous process, and provide for fair and open elections for the Board of Education. Anne Arundel County parents, students, teachers, and taxpayers deserve nothing less. 

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