October 23, 2018
Politics & Opinion
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Why Democrats Hate The Prospect Of An Elected School Board

Matthew Pugh - Anne Arundel Republican Central Committee
Matthew Pugh - Anne Arundel Republican Central Committee's picture
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June 1, 2016

What do you call a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but behaves in a way that contradicts those beliefs? The answer: Democrat.

Democrats will tell anyone who listens that they represent the party of the people; they are the self-proclaimed champions of diversity, fairness and equality for all. Yet when it comes to the prospect of allowing the citizens of Anne Arundel County to elect its Board of Education (BOE), Democrats are completely electophobic.

Why do county Democrats fear having an elected school board? It’s simple; they most likely would not be elected to it, thereby losing a substantial amount of privilege and power, including control over 51 percent of the county budget. Republicans, on the other hand, want the voters of our county to decide who sits on the BOE, so its members – and the budget – are accountable to us.

In order to understand why Democrats discriminate against an elected BOE, it’s important to understand how the process for choosing its members works and why Democrats are scrambling to regulate it.

In 2007, Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley enacted legislation that established the School Board Nominating Commission (SBNC) of Anne Arundel County. The SBNC is an 11-member body that screens applicants for a seat on the BOE and then recommends candidates to the governor for appointment.

Five members, or commissioners, are then appointed to the SBNC by the governor: one from the county executive, one from the Teacher’s Association of Anne Arundel County, one from the Annapolis and Anne Arundel Chamber of Commerce, one from the Anne Arundel County Council of PTAs, one from the Anne Arundel County Community College Board of Trustees, and one from the Association of Education Leaders.

SBNC commissioners serve four-year terms. The chairman of the SBNC is named by the governor and must be selected from one of the legislative district appointments. The SBNC’s mandate is to select nominees from whom the governor must choose appointments to the BOE when a vacancy occurs.

In short, whoever chooses the SBNC chooses the BOE. The BOE has nine members.

Keep in mind, this system was created by the Democrats for the benefit of Democrats. The BOE has been controlled by them ever since the SBNC’s implementation. However, in 2014, the unimaginable happened for Democrats in Maryland: A Republican was elected governor. Combine that with having a Republican county executive, and Republicans flipped the balance of influence on the SBNC, controlling six of 11 seats.

Suddenly, the very system that the Democrats established was not working in their favor. Rather than play by the rules they created, they changed them. In March of this year, they passed legislation that removes all five SBNC members who were appointed by Governor Hogan and adds new members, the majority of whom are representatives from special interest groups.

The timing of this new legislation was no accident. You see, Governor Hogan appointed two Republicans to the BOE earlier this year. A third Republican appointment was to be added this July. And the terms of two more BOE members were due to expire in 2017.

Had the current SBNC been able to decide the list of appointees to send to the governor for consideration, Republicans could have had the majority of seats (five of nine) on the BOE by next year. Recognizing this, the Democrats quickly changed the laws during this year’s General Assembly, because doing so in 2017 would have been too late.

Indeed, the hypocrisy on behalf of the Democrats to remove the SBNC appointment abilities from a Republican governor – abilities they designed – is gut-churning. What’s more despicable, their decision to strip Governor Hogan of his authority sends a clear message that they couldn’t care less about the 66 percent of Anne Arundel County voters who elected the governor to lead our state.

Not surprisingly, these politics surrounding the SBNC were never an issue when Maryland’s governor was a Democrat and had five appointees. Leave it to Democrats to throw a collective tantrum when they don’t get their way, or worse, when they have to abide by the rules they impose on everyone else.

So what’s the solution to keeping partisan games like these out of the Anne Arundel County BOE selection process? Elect the school board.

Throughout Maryland, 17 counties have full school-board elections. Four counties — Harford, Caroline, Prince George's and Baltimore — have hybrid school boards of elected and appointed members. Only Wicomico County, Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County are fully appointed bodies. It’s time our county changed.

Members of the Anne Arundel County BOE should be selected by the voters, not by special interest groups with agendas, as the Democrats have set it up. Electing the BOE ensures a fair process and demands transparency from candidates. It also enables the public to decide the experience and diversity of leadership that best reflects their community. Furthermore, by electing the BOE, its members, who will spend 51 percent of the county’s money, our money, must ultimately answer to the public.

The next time you hear Democrats – particularly Delegates Pam Beidle, Ned Carey, Mark Chang, Ted Sophocleus and Speaker Mike Busch – claim they stand for diversity, fairness and equality, ask them why they refuse to allow such things to prosper by opposing an elected school board.

Matthew Pugh is a member of the Republican State Central Committee. His column does not represent the collective opinion of the Central Committee.


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