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February 2, 2016

HoCo Board of Ed Election By District (But Which Ones?)

This weekend, an email went out from The People’s Voice, LLC with the following message about the potential that the bill to change the way the Board of Education is elected, from at large to partially by district, was headed to defeat:

Please take a moment and email the Howard County Delegation, specifically the Senators, as it has come to our attention that Senators Kasemeyer and Bates plan to vote against bill “hoco 12-16”, which calls for the election of the Board of Education (BOE) members by district (5 by council district, 2 still countywide). This bill increases the accountability of the BOE members to their voters (i.e., their Council District), which is deeply needed. If both Senators Kasemeyer and Bates vote against this bill -and the vote is scheduled for THIS Wednesday – it WILL FAIL. PLEASE email Senators Kasemeyer and Bates, and copy the delegates as well, and let them know that this bill is absolutely necessary.

If Senators Kasemeyer and Bates have an issue with electing by “council district”, they can amend the bill to create different “districts” that would address fair representation on the BOE for all of Howard County.

A sticking point about this bill, and even addressed in the above plea, that I have heard from even those in favor of the idea of districts for school board members is the use of the Councilmanic Districts to serve this purpose in lieu of districts related to the actual school districts. From a purely partisan standpoint, no one can deny Democrats have used their ability to redraw the district lines to their advantage at the council level. I think most people believe in the idea that the School Board should be kept as far away from partisan politics as possible. I am not naive, I know it is impossible to keep it completely separate and party’s will pick their favorites for the election of this non-partisan office; but I personally think, and agree with many others, that the boundaries should be somehow tied to the actual school boundaries they represent. Below is an image I was able to create using the Howard County Government’s very useful mapping program.

• Councilmanic Districts 1-5 (shaded)
• High School Boundaries for the 12 High Schools (dark blue lines)
• Location of the High Itself.
schools

You can click on it to make it bigger.  Note, for whatever reason, Applications Research Lab shows up as a Thirteenth Public High School along Route 108. There is no way to hide this in the mapping program.

I am making an assumption that most people reading this site have a general idea which high school is which. By drawing the School Board Districts using the Councilmanic districts, we would end up with a situation where the only one high school is contained entirely within a Councilmanic district, Glenelg. Every other high school, with this method, would be chopped up into multiple districts and in some case like Wilde Lake, three districts at once.

You can think what you will about what it says about the voters and their knowledge of who their elected officials are, but I believe most people in this county have a better idea of which High School District they live in rather than which Council District or who their councilperson actually is. if the concern and reason for this bill is making sure people have someone they know they can talk to about school issues, then I believe the districts should be based on the high school district lines, not the partisan political councilmanic lines that are subject to the whims of whichever party is in power. The idea of an elected school board by district is a good one, but the delegation should make sure they do not rush this bill through and get it right.

This bill would not take affect until January 2017, meaning it would not affect an election until 2018. They have time to make it a better system later this year or next year instead of rushing it through now.

UPDATE (4:42pm): I just saw that HoCo Common Sense addresses this in a similar manner with regards to the partisan political issue with the current proposal.


Comments:

  1. Thanks for writing this and showing the lines. Based on your blog, if there are twelve high schools, why not have six districts and one at large. You can have two high schools per district. That seems like the most common sense approach instead of the council districts that have no relation to the school districts.

    Love this site.

    Comment by koolkat21045 — February 2, 2016 @ 12:22 pm


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