Capital News Article

Cindy Huang, Four named to school nominating panel, Capital, September 29, 2015.

Snider Comment

“The commission receives no public funding to maintain its Web page, hire an administrator or communicate to the public, Greene said. ‘When it comes to processing paperwork, getting things in order, minutes, agendas, applicants, getting those online, it all fell to me,’ he said.”

This statement is highly misleading even if technically true. It is true that the SBNC was not granted a discrete budget. But Maryland’s General Assembly provided it a legislative counsel who attended every SBNC meeting and did the bulk of the SBNC’s paperwork. The SBNC also made frequent use of free resources provided by Maryland’s AG. Over the years, this amounted to tens of thousands of dollars worth of “free” labor at taxpayer expense. Also, the AACPS “PR” office (of course, it’s not actually labeled that), with an annual budget of ~$2 million, spent thousands of dollars worth of staff time this year alone televising the SBNC (it’s televised “broadcast” quality). AACPS also did all the record keeping and web posting on behalf of the SBNC. My impression has been that the legislative counsel, not the Chair, drafted the minutes and that the Chair generally refused to make either the draft minutes or the approved minutes available to the public at the meeting at which they were approved. Often years would go by without his making the minutes available to the public, including the SBNC commissioner votes for the candidates. All this history is covered at

It is unfortunate that the Capital reporter didn’t interview Bill Jones, who was the real force behind the SBNC. Greene was both literally and figuratively Jones’s right hand man (Greene sat immediately right of Jones on the podium). As long as a candidate had Jones’s support, it didn’t matter whether you were an R or D.

Capital Editorial

Our say: Politics, school board – a matter of balance, Capital, October 4, 2015.

Snider Comment

I covered these issues in a Capital op-ed, “School governance can be fixed,” November 20, 2014. A key point of that op-ed is that the public policy debate shouldn’t be so much about appointed vs. elected school board governance per se, but the care with which an appointed vs. elected school governance system is designed. A second key point is that there is a third alternative: more of what is known as “mayoral control,” which has become an increasingly popular system of school governance for giant school districts such as Anne Arundel County. With mayoral control, the county executive could appoint the superintendent. The school board would remain but with reduced powers.

Senator Bryan Simonaire’s Capital Op-ed

Simonaire, Bryan, Stop making schools a political pawn, Capital, October, 7, 2015.

Snider Comment

For more transparent and accountable AACPS school governance, more “mayoral” control should be part of the reform proposal. More than 80% of the public don’t have kids in the public schools, and they won’t pay attention to school elections, especially if those elections are non-partisan. Since the press and public do pay attention to “mayoral” elections, mayoral control of giant school districts–AACPS is one of the fifty largest of more than 14,000 districts–is common. Increased mayoral control doesn’t mean eliminating the school board, but it does mean, say, having the county executive appoint the superintendent.

I would be wary of demonizing our multi-party system of government, which is vital to ensuring transparent and accountable government. The public has been trained to despise multi-party government, which is disparaged as “partisan.” I would agree that for small government units partisan elections aren’t necessary or desirable. But for giant districts such as AACPS, what you usually end up with when elections are “non-partisan” is a hidden, dirty type of partisanship.

The current conceptual framework for discussing AACPS school governance is tired and grossly inadequate. I hope our leaders will explore some fresh thinking to get out of this intellectual miasma.

Follow-Up Coverage

Capital Editorial

Our say: Balance of power for county schools shifting, Capital, October 25, 2015

See also Huang, Cindy, Schuh wants governor to reopen school board application process, Capital, October 22, 2015.

Snider Comment on the Editorial (Focusing only on the need to cite the source for politicized statistics)

In the future, I would encourage Capital editorial writers and, especially, reporters, to state where they got their statistics and provide at least a hint that they actually understand the statistical assumptions used to derive the reported data.  If that is too much to ask, given space constraints, at least provide a link to the government source of the data, assuming there is one.  Readers deserve to know where this data is coming from. Just because the data comes from a government source doesn’t mean it measures what it purports to measure or what readers reasonably assume it measures.  Part of the Capital’s job is to determine not only whether official verbal statements are misleading but also whether official statistics are misleading or at least could be misleading to an uninformed reader.  I recognize that many reporters and editors are statistically challenged, but that is still no excuse to report politically charged statistics whose critical assumptions aren’t understood.