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School elections bill gets bad report

April 05, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

ANNAPOLIS

A legislative subcommittee likely nailed the coffin shut Tuesday on legislation to study the potential for choosing School Board members by district rather than at large.

The education subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee voted to recommend an unfavorable report because members weren't convinced of local support, according to subcommittee Chairman Bennett Bozman, D-Wicomico/Worcester.

"There seemed to be three different ideas floating," he said. "They really weren't united."

Washington County Board of Education members voiced opposition to the bill early on, drafting a letter to the committee last month that said no changes in the method of electing board members was warranted.

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On Tuesday evening, Board President W. Edward Forrest said the board stands by that letter.

The letter cited board members' fears that a regionalized board might result in money being allocated on the basis of where members' votes are coming from rather than according to need.

"We're not sure it's an issue that needed to be legislated," Forrest said.

Board members would be glad to talk with the local delegation about any concerns regarding the issue, he said.

The bill was clinging to life last week as local lawmakers attempted to rescue it, but "basically opposition from the elected board" sealed its fate, said Del. Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

McKee said subcommittee members questioned him about the bill Tuesday, but because there was no consensus from the board, decided not to advance it. The full committee has not yet voted to kill it.

The Washington County Delegation filed the bill in response to requests from constituents in outlying parts of the county, particularly from the Citizens Advisory Council for Boonsboro schools, to change the method of selecting board members.

The group offered three options for considering district elections. One was to put the issue to referendum in the coming election. Another was to seek a nonbinding straw poll. The third option was creating a task force to study the issue, which is what the bill would have created.

Del. Richard B. Weldon, R-Washington/Frederick, recommended the task force but said Tuesday he wasn't surprised that the bill seemed destined to fail.

House bill 1618




- Staff writer Erin Cunningham contributed to this story.

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