Prince George's County Council Sees Schools Takeover Plan

Prince George's County Council members got their first public look at a bill to change control of the schools, and they are upset.

The updated plan still would give County Executive Rushern Baker a lot more power over school decisions.

“I think the county executive’s position is that the new superintendent hiring is the trigger here,” State Sen. Douglas Peters said.

Peters introduced Senate Bill 1071 on behalf of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker Monday. The 30-page legislation aims to change the way the county’s school system is governed, giving more power to the county executive and less to the school board.

Only two weeks remain in Maryland’s legislative session.
“The pressure is on, and it’s a very tight window to make this happen,” Peters said.

The bill is a compromised form of earlier drafts. It still changes the superintendent to a cabinet level position under the county executive, but in this version, the school board gets back control of the budget, with oversight connected to the county executive’s office.

“I think the county executive’s overstepping his bounds,” Prince George’s County Council member Mary Lehman said.
In a public briefing Tuesday afternoon, County Council members reviewed the bill for the first time in a public briefing, and their response was not good.

“I feel very, very sad that we have move to this point and that we have not been involved,” Council member Obie Patterson said.

“This is a bad bill, as written, it’s just bad,” Board of Education Chair Verjeana Jacobs said.

She shares some of the council’s concerns.

“They had questions about budget, they had questions about who answers to who, they had questions about who is responsible for what, and those things are not clear in this legislation,” Jacobs said.
Baker said there’s more work to do on the bill, but he thinks it can be done.

“There are going to be other changes to it as we move through this process this week, and what we want to make sure is that we have the best product that comes out,” he said.

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