Capital Op-ed (Steve Schuh is the County Executive)

Schuh, Steve, Decision makes schools accountable to the people, not politicians, Capital, April 15, 2017.

Snider Comments

“In a stunning and complete turnaround in policy, state legislators voted to replace Anne Arundel County’s appointed school board with an elected one.”

Yes, it was a stunning and complete turnaround from a policy perspective. But from a political perspective, it was the same old usual. The school board selection system has been designed to serve those in power. When the old system no longer served that end, it was changed.

“This appointment system has generally worked for the benefit of the majority party in Maryland.”

Well, sort of. It has primarily worked on a bipartisan basis for the benefit of insiders, who love the fact that the board is bipartisan and that school board members regardless of personal party affiliation routinely bash the two-party system.

“Public awareness of the dysfunctionality of the existing appointment system has grown in recent years, thanks to the persistent efforts of various legislators.”

No, I’d say in spite of the lack of effort by legislators. Despite all the hoopla over the board selection system, I cannot recall a single oversight hearing on the problems with the current system. The change was primarily wrought by a change from a Democratic to Republican Governor (the governor got to select school board members under the old system), a miscellany of lawsuits engendered by that change, and press coverage (belatedly) of the SBNC’s embarrassing actions that the legislators had treated with deafening silence.

“The inequity and politically manipulated nature of the current system is now clear for all to see.”

Yes, these have long been documented at and in various op-eds I have written over the years. The real question is why it took so long for our elected officials to acknowledge them and even now only allude to them in vague, euphemistic terms designed as much to conceal as reveal.

Here is my prediction: there will be more scandal associated with the school board during the next five years than the past forty combined.

Julie Hummer Comment (Julie Hummer is on the Board of Education)

“Julie Hummer, a Democrat, has children in charter schools and her profile says she was actively involved in bringing Monarch Global charter to the county.”

Yes, MarylandMom, I currently have one child in Monarch Global Academy Contract School, and another of my children attended Monarch Academy Charter School. I was involved with bringing Monarch Global to my area to alleviate overcrowding at our local elementary schools. I am grateful for past and current board members of whatever political bent they may have been who have supported and implemented these charter/contract options, along with the many other school choice options within the county. Anne Arundel County uses charter/contract schools as they should be used – to offer educational programs not available at our existing schools and/or to meet facility needs within the county. In all my years as an involved parent and school board member, I have never detected any bias against charter/contract schools from the school board, never seen it to be a Republican or Democrat issue. Instead, board members have always been looking for the best way to serve students while offering additional school choice options. Looking forward to the opening of Monarch Annapolis this fall!

Snider Response

“the Board consistently supports charters as school choice options.”

It is true that politically astute board members routinely speak out in favor of charter schools. That is because polls show that the great majority of Anne Arundel County citizens favor charter schools, so it would be politically stupid to say anything else publicly. The question, however, is not what they say but what they do. The same board members who have avowed support for charter schools also chased KIPP out of Anne Arundel County and have thrown up obstacle after obstacle to the expansion of the highly successful Chesapeake Science Point Charter School.

Hummer Response

Chesapeake Science Point has expanded, with support of the school system and the BOE, from a middle school to a high school since it was first chartered. Since it has not submitted an official application or proposal for further expansion, it is inaccurate to state that the Board has thrown up obstacles to its expansion. In the past 15 years, five organizations have proposed charter/contract schools for the county; four of the five have been approved and are in operation or soon will be. That is track record of solid support for charter schools.

Snider Response

A CSP official emailed me the following information, arguing that it is worse than I reported: “[The BOE] has not approved a charter school since Monarch was approved years ago. They have also done everything in their power to deny Chesapeake Science Point the addition of 40 students. We have a waitlist of over 300. We also have hundreds of parents who want us to start a K-5 school. CSP is approved to enroll, based on current space, 650 to 700 students. AACPS has frozen us at 454 students.”