Capital Article

DeButts, Jimmy, Beidle files for state Senate in Anne Arundel’s District 32, August 28, 2017.

Snider Comment

“Beidle used the passage of a bill creating an elected school board earlier this year as an example of her leadership.”

Four points:

1) Until the most recent General Assembly session, Beidle was strenuously opposed to an elected school board. Despite her numerous public comments on why an elected school board was a good idea, she did not publicly explain her 180-degree flip on this position.

2) During the past session, she disparaged an appointed school board but then strongly advocated for a School Board Appointment Commission to replace all mid-term vacancies such as the recent one for Tom Frank’s open seat. This new appointment commission had far fewer democratic checks than the previous School Board Nomination Commission, which had a majority of members appointed by elected officials rather than private interest groups (called “stakeholders”) with no public accountability. Despite her implicit objection to the membership on the previous commission, she somehow finessed having a public discussion about the specific and enlarged number of private groups she was privately championing to serve on the new commission.

3) In the discussion over an elected school board, amendments were proposed and introduced providing that the bodies responsible for nominating the student member of the board (who has the same voting rights as the adult school board members) should be subject to the same right-to-know and ethics laws as those covering the comparable adult electoral bodies. Despite the well documented corruption in the process for selecting the student member to the board, she opposed having a public discussion on the reasons why such amendments were needed and then at the last moment before the delegation’s final vote on an elected school board opposed the proposed amendments on spurious grounds.

4) Beidle did hold one public meeting at the state house where she invited the public to comment on the merits of changing the current school board selection process. I was one of the first to sign up to testify at that event but Beidle waited until the end of the hearing to call on me. By then, many of the Anne Arundel delegation members and audience members had left, and everyone was tired and wanted to be done. Of course, it is the chair’s prerogative to determine the order of speakers. But I would suggest that such behavior diminishes the incentive for the public to engage in a robust and healthy public discussion of the school board selection issue, which was the nominal purpose of the hearing she called.