Who needs school boards?
A former Balto. Co. school board member and Sun education writer says Hogan and Franchot are on the path to running local schools themselves
I’m delighted to see the sturdy resistance among local school boards (and some members of the state school board) to Gov. Larry Hogan and state Comptroller Peter Franchot’s takeover of Maryland’s school calendars (“Maryland school board would streamline waivers from Labor Day order,” Sept. 27).
State school board member Laura Weeldreyer is absolutely right in saying, “What could be more fundamental to education policy than instructional time?”
One of my professional stops before coming to The Sun as education reporter in the early 1970s was in New York’s Long Island, where there were 123 school districts, each with its own school board and expensive school bureaucracy. It was extremely inefficient compared to Maryland, which has just 24 school districts that are contiguous with their county or city lines.
Except for one thing: Those New York boards set their own tax rates and had complete control over the operation of their districts. When voters turned down school tax increases, the boards were forced to go on “austerity” budgets, often eliminating sports and other “frills.” It was sometimes painful, but the citizens had only themselves to thank.
No such thing in Maryland, where school boards are entirely dependent on state and local political authorities for their funding. They have no tax-raising authority, nor can they float bonds. These are hat-in-hand operations that have to beg pretty please for the funds that allow them to fulfill their missions.
And now Mr. Hogan and Mr. Franchot want to take away these boards’ authority to set their own yearly calendars. The next major function I expect the governor and the comptroller to usurp is the appointment of superintendents.
All of which begs the question: Why even have local school Gov. Larry Hogan signs an executive order forcing schools to start after Labor Day. boards in Maryland if they lack the power to do what is needed to run their districts? The late City Council President Walter Orlinsky — disgraced and gone14 years but still a visionary — seriously asked that question back in the 1980s.
Indeed, why not turn over the whole enterprise to the governor and the comptroller since both — especially Mr. Franchot — seem to have plenty of time to dabble in affairs that should be none of their business?