Capital Op-Ed

Birge, Teresa Milio, Changes put politics ahead of students, Capital, November 25, 2015.

Snider Comment

Board of Education member Birge 8 times used the word “political” to disparage the SBNC. It’s one of her favorite words to disparage those with whom she politically disagrees, but I’ve never heard her define the term. Here’s an operational definition of the term as she has used it: “Representatives who consistently vote in a block based on interests other than the kids’ best interests.” Let’s ignore the 2nd part of that definition, as the “kids’ best interests” is an inherently subjective concept, whereas voting as a block isn’t.

Yes, the new gubernatorial appointees to the SBNC voted as a block at their 1st meeting on Nov. 17. But the SBNC has a long tradition of block voting on critical votes, including votes for Ms. Birge. E.g., the previous SBNC had 4 reps from 3 AACPS bargaining units (2 from TAAAC, 1 from AEL, 1 from AFSCME). On votes where their votes made a difference, including vetoing nominees, they block voted.

How does Ms. Birge justify her double standard on block voting? Are we to presume that the 4 bargaining unit reps always violated their fiduciary responsibility to their members when their members’ and the kids’ interests conflicted? If so, shouldn’t Ms. Birge acknowledge that as a critical assumption of her argument?

My biggest gripe with Ms. Birge’s argument is AACPS’s highly “politicized” SBNC administration under her BOE leadership. The BOE via AACPS administrators controls the SBNC’s record keeping, and this creates an unacceptable conflict of interest. E.g., when Ms. Birge ran for a 2nd term on the BOE, I requested that the SBNC post on the website her application from the 1st time she ran so that the public could compare her promises and performance. The AACPS PR official who controlled such records on the BOE’s behalf refused to post it. Similarly, the BOE Secretary managed all SBNC applications, including ethics disclosures. Don’t such practices give school board incumbents the appearance of an unfair information advantage? Don’t they smack of a politicized SBNC—the SBNC Ms. Birge extols?