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

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE - Mike Bowler, Ca­tonsville The writer is a former mem­ber of the Bal­ti­more County school board.

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?

CAITLIN FAW/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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